Government faces legal action over changes to Brexit laws which 'weaken environmental protections'

‘Henry VIII powers’ threaten to weaken protections safeguarding seals, otters, dolphins and seabirds, say environmental groups

Campaigners say they are concerned the government has 'unlawfully introduced sweeping new powers behind the scenes that weaken environmental protection'
Campaigners say they are concerned the government has 'unlawfully introduced sweeping new powers behind the scenes that weaken environmental protection'

The government’s repeated promises of a “green Brexit” with the introduction of strong environmental protections to replace existing EU laws appear to be in doubt due to “behind the scenes” changes to government powers in the Withdrawal Act, campaigners say.

Environmental law firm ClientEarth and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) are working with lawyers at Leigh Day Solicitors to take the government to court over Brexit laws they claim could weaken protections for wildlife and the seas.

The new measures, which they describe as “Henry VIII powers”, will allow ministers to alter and reduce standards for protected sites, the groups say.

Such a move could put seals, otters, dolphins and seabirds and other animals, plants and precious sites around the UK at risk, the environmental organisations say.

ClientEarth UK law and policy adviser Dr Tom West said: “The UK government has repeatedly promised that the environment would be safeguarded after Brexit.

“So, it is extremely concerning that the government has quietly and unlawfully introduced sweeping new powers behind the scenes that weaken environmental protection.

“Quite rightly the public has been concerned by the use of so-called Henry VIII powers that give too much discretion to ministers to make new laws, with little scrutiny from Parliament, the public or civil society.”

Marine Conservation Society chief executive Sandy Luk said: “Whatever you think of Brexit, the government must keep its promise to the UK public that its seas, countryside and wildlife will not be worse off if EU protections are no longer in place.

“The management of marine protected areas is not strong enough under current legislation and allowing these changes will mean weaker protections for vulnerable species and habitats.

“We could even see the possibility of protected areas being abolished after Brexit.

“We cannot allow hard-won ocean protections, which will safeguard future generations and marine wildlife such as treasured dolphins and seabirds, to be lost or watered down.”

Additional reporting by PA

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in