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UKELA Report Published on Environmental Standard Setting After Brexit

Feb 05, 2018

Further information
Joe Newbigin

A UKELA report published today highlights the challenges facing governments in the UK in developing environmental standards after Brexit.

The United Kingdom Environmental Law Association (UKELA) has today published its report Brexit and Environmental Law: Environmental Standard Setting after Brexit. This paper highlights the considerable activity at EU level to develop the standards that apply under EU-derived environmental. Withdrawal from the EU raises the prospect of the UK ceasing to be involved in this activity, and having to decide whether and how to develop domestic processes for setting environmental standards.

The report considers the particular challenges that arise 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.”

Available for comment

Richard Macrory, Co-Chair of UKELA’s Brexit Task Force is available for commentary. Please contact him directly at r.macrory@ucl.ac.uk , or indirectly via Joe Newbigin, UKELA’s Brexit Researcher at joe@ukela.org


Notes to the editors:

1. The UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA) is the foremost body of environmental lawyers in the UK. It is composed of 1,400 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.

2. UKELA remained neutral on the Brexit Referendum. UKELA’s full position on Brexit can be found at www.ukela.org/ukelaposition.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. This report is one of a series of UKELA reports published since July 2017 on key issues related to Brexit and environmental law.

6. Other reports already available in the Brexit and Environmental Law series include:

  • Enforcement and Political Accountability Issues
  • Exit from the Euratom Treaty and its Environmental Implications
  • Brexit, Henry VIII Clauses and Environmental Law
  • The UK and International Environmental Law after Brexit
  • Wales, Brexit and Environmental Law
  • The UK and European Environmental Bodies

7. Forthcoming reports in the series include:

  • Scotland, Brexit and Environmental Law
  • Scotland and International Environmental Law after Brexit

UK Environmental Law Association - Better law for the environment
Registered charity 299498; company registered in England number 2133283
Registered office: One Glass Wharf, Bristol, BS2 0ZX


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