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July, 26 2017

UK a setter of Gold Standards after Brexit?

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Posted by Rosie Oliver at 18:18


Given concerns in some quarters that Brexit may prove the route to environmental deregulation and downgrading of standards, we were heartened by the Environment Secretary’s speech at WWF’s Living Planet Centre last week. UKELA welcomes the Secretary of State’s recognition that while Brexit is “an historic opportunity to review our policies” he has “no intention of weakening the environmental protections we have put in place while in the EU”. This is reassuring, given our position that the level of environmental protection must not be diminished.

We also welcome his ambition for the UK to become “a setter of gold standards in protecting and growing our natural capital”. UKELA considers it crucially important that the UK Government and devolved administrations should explore ways of improving and strengthening environmental regulation after Brexit. Of course, the extent to which this will be legally possible will be constrained by, amongst other things, the terms of future trade agreements. It is quite possible that a trade deal with the EU will require UK’s laws in many areas of environmental regulation to continue to converge with those of its EU trading partners.

We also warmly receive Mr Gove’s recognition of the importance of the UK’s leading role in establishing international environmental standards and maintaining international environmental co-operation in areas ranging from climate change and protection of the ozone layer, to promoting biodiversity and tacking trade in illegal wildlife. As we highlighted in a previous post, there are a number of international environmental agreements which will ‘fall away’ after Brexit and we look forward to hearing from the Government about which of these the UK will ratify and incorporate into domestic law.

We are encouraged to see a recognition of the need to replace the enforcement functions currently undertaken by European institutions. In our recent report ‘Brexit and Environmental Law: Enforcement and Political Accountability Issues’ we said that Brexit “presents an opportunity to innovate and improve on our domestic mechanisms for ensuring that duties on government and other public bodies are properly implemented”. We therefore welcome the Secretary of State’s ambition of creating “more effective, more rigorous and more responsive institutions” to enforce the “highest environmental standards”. We said that “the United Kingdom should aspire to be a leader in the design and implementation of effective environmental law” and we therefore similarly welcome the Secretary of State’s view that “if we establish ourselves as the home of the highest environmental standards, the most rigorous science and the most ambitious institutions then the world will look to us for environmental innovation and leadership”.

We look forward to the UK Government’s 25 year plan - now expected later this year - for more detail of the Government’s vision for the environment after Brexit.

UKELA’s position on Brexit can be found here.

February, 09 2018

Environmental Standard-Setting & European Cooperation Bodies

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Posted by Rosie Oliver at 11:07


We're delighted to have launched two more reports in our Brexit and Environmental Law series.

The first, The UK and European Cooperation Bodies examines the implications of Brexit on the UK’s future involvement in a range of European cooperation bodies, networks and agencies relevant to environmental law.

The report identifies I8 bodies, networks and agencies that the UK currently participates in. These range from the European Environment Agency established under EU legislation to more informal networks of national experts such as the European Network of Prosecutors for the Environment. The report considers those which the UK could legally remain a member of after Brexit, and those where some form of associate membership could be sought. It ranks by priority the bodies that UKELA considers the UK Government should prioritise during its Brexit negotiations.

The report includes a systematic analysis of the detailed rules governing membership of each of these bodies and networks. It also considers possible political barriers to continued engagement, such as budgetary contributions, application of the relevant acquis or accepting limited jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. These are balanced with the opportunities they offer, such as continued access to EU funding streams, and to the improved effectiveness of our future national environmental law and policy post Brexit.

Professor Richard Macrory QC, co-chair of the Brexit Task Force, says:

Continued membership of the European Environment Agency is an open door, ready to be pushed – the rules currently permit third country membership and anecdotal evidence suggests that the Agency would welcome continued UK involvement. But there are other bodies which are also of the highest priority for the UK where continued membership will not be so straightforward. These include the European Chemicals Agency, the Seville Process and the European Food Safety Authority. We would welcome a commitment from the Government that these important bodies will be prioritised in negotiations.

The second report, Environmental Standard Setting after Brexit highlights the challenges facing governments in the UK in developing environmental standards after Brexit in three different scenarios:

  1. if the UK is required to keep pace with EU standards under the terms of withdrawal or a trade agreement;
  2. if the UK wishes to keep pace with evolving EU standards as a matter of domestic policy; and
  3. if standards are to be developed domestically.

The third scenario – setting standards domestically – raises the biggest practical and legal challenges, as governments will need to decide how to repatriate the considerable work currently undertaken at EU level. The report takes two contrasting case-studies: standard-setting for industrial processes and water classification standards. It considers whether current arrangements might suggest starting points, or provide lessons, for developing standards domestically after Brexit. In both cases, the report recommends that governments consider ways of involving a range of stakeholders, including regulators, industry and environmental NGOs, in developing standards after Exit Day.

Andrew Bryce, co-chair of the Brexit Task Force set up by UKELA, says:

If the UK and devolved governments wish to set standards domestically after Brexit a huge amount of work will be needed to develop procedures and institutions for doing this. If arrangements are not put in place, we risk having standards that are frozen in time, and that are not capable of addressing technical innovations or developments in scientific understanding of environmental risks.

About this blog

Welcome to the UKELA Brexit Task Force blog where we consider the impact of Brexit on environmental law, practice and enforcement in the UK
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