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UKELA Report published today on developing environmental law in Wales after Brexit

Oct 18, 2017

Further information
Victoria Jenkins

The United Kingdom Environmental Law Association (UKELA) has today published its report Wales, Brexit and Environmental Law. The report highlights the challenges that will need to be faced in developing environmental law in Wales after Brexit. It emphasises the importance of maintaining common frameworks for action on environmental protection across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This should be done in a way that involves all four nations, and leaves room for Wales to tailor its approach to meeting or even exceeding common standards. Recent innovative approaches, such as legal reforms for the well-being of future generations can provide strategic direction and stability for the future development of Welsh environmental law.

Victoria Jenkins, Senior Lecturer at the College of Law and Criminology, Swansea University and author of the report said:

“Brexit raises important issues about the relative responsibilities of the UK and devolved governments for environmental protection. From an environmental perspective, there will always be a need for multi-level governance approaches, but it is also important to allow the devolved nations room to respond to their particular social, economic and environmental circumstances. Wales has demonstrated significant ambition and innovation in creating legal frameworks to support the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and the Well-being of Future Generations. Brexit must not stand in the way of the development of this progressive agenda.”

EU law has provided central standards and frameworks for action in meeting environmental protection aims. Brexit opens up the possibility for the UK and devolved governments to take increasingly divergent approaches to each other and the rest of the EU. This presents both risks due to greater regulatory complexity and associated costs, and opportunities for tailored approaches and innovation.

This report makes the following key points:

  • After Brexit, it will be important to maintain common frameworks for action on environmental protection across the UK. New institutional mechanisms involving all four nations in the UK will be necessary to underpin the work on developing these frameworks. There must also be room for devolved approaches in meeting, or indeed exceeding, common environmental standards.
  • The Welsh Government has recently demonstrated significant energy and enthusiasm in developing innovative approaches to environmental protection in Wales. This has resulted in new legal frameworks for sustainable natural resource management and the well-being of future generations. These frameworks, and crucially the principles underpinning them, will be important in providing strategic direction and stability for the future development of Welsh environmental law.
  • The current complexity of the law applicable to Wales and the relationship between devolved and non-devolved powers must also be considered in developing environmental law in the future. Any ambition to create a Welsh Environment Code should not stand in the way of pressing needs for incremental change.
  • The procedures for scrutiny of future Welsh environmental law should be carefully considered. There should be consistency in the approach to scrutinising legislation made further to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and other laws made by the Assembly. This will require NAW to have control of the procedures to be adopted. Legislation introducing significant changes to environmental protection should be subject to on-going review by the relevant Assembly Committee.

A Welsh Language version of this Press Release is available at https://www.ukela.org/content/doclib/323.pdf.

Available for comment

Dr Victoria Jenkins, co-convenor for UKELA’s Wales Working Party is available for commentary in the first instance. Please contact her directly at v.a.jenkins@swansea.ac.uk.

Professor Richard Macrory, Co-Chair of UKELA’s Brexit Task Force is also available for commentary on UKELA’s Brexit work more generally. Please contact him directly at r.macrory@ucl.ac.uk .


Notes to the editors:
  1. The UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA) supports the Welsh Language and its contribution to the cultural well-being of Wales. As a small charity, UKELA regrets that it does not have the funds to translate the report.
  2. UKELA is the foremost body of environmental lawyers in the UK. It is composed of 1,200 academics, barristers, solicitors, consultants, and judges involved in the practice, study and formulation of environmental law across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. UKELA aims to promote better law for the environment and to improve understanding and awareness of environmental law.
  3. UKELA remained neutral on the Brexit Referendum. UKELA’s full position on Brexit can be found at www.ukela.org/ukelaposition.
  4. UKELA’s Brexit Task Force was established in September 2016 to advise on all matters relating to and arising from the UK’s decision to leave the European Union insofar as this impacts environmental law, practice and enforcement in the UK. The 27 members of the Task Force include experienced environmental law solicitors and barristers, legal academics, and members of the judiciary with representation from all the UK jurisdictions.
  5. The Brexit Task Force has been examining the legal and technical implications of separating our domestic environmental laws from the European Union and the means by which a smooth transition can be achieved. The Task Force aims to inform the debate on the effect that withdrawal from the EU and draw attention to potential problem which may arise.
  6. This report is one of a series of UKELA reports to be published between July and November 2017 on key issues related to Brexit and environmental law. The first seven reports will be:
  • Brexit and Environmental Law: Exit from the Euratom Treaty and its Environmental Implications
  • Brexit and Environmental Law: Enforcement and Political Accountability Issues
  • Brexit and Environmental Law: the UK and International Environmental Law after Brexit
  • Brexit and Environmental Law: Brexit, Henry VIII Clauses and Environmental Law
  • Brexit and Environmental Law: Wales, Brexit and Environmental Law
  • Brexit and Environmental Law: Environmental Standard Setting Outside the EU
  • Brexit and Environmental Law: the UK and European Environmental Bodies

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