Brexit will enable the UK to help make planet Earth a “greener, cleaner, better, richer” place, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has claimed.
In a speech to a reception held by the Green Alliance think tank, Mr Gove stressed he was in “listening mode” following his appointment to the post after last month’s general election.
He urged people to express their “concerns and hopes” about the Government’s new ‘Repeal Bill’, which is designed to transfer a vast swathe of European Union legislation into British law when the UK leaves.
Concerns have been raised about Mr Gove’s appointment as Environment Secretary, given his previous call to scrap “absurd” regulations such as the EU Habitats Directive and other pronouncements in a similar vein.
However, the Cabinet Minister, who once described himself as a “shy green”, told the Green Alliance meeting that he wanted new farming and fishing policies that “put the environment first”, according to a report by environmental website Edie.net.
He said Brexit was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for the UK to help make the world “greener, cleaner, better, richer” and take a lead in the fight against climate change.
“The Repeal Bill will be scrutinised and I'm in listening mode and I want to hear all of the concerns and hopes that people have for that legislation,” he told the audience of environmental groups.
“But as well as that individual piece of legislation, there is also an opportunity for us to reshape environmental regulation.
“We have an opportunity to ensure that we can develop the institutions and mechanisms the world will look to and admire as the most effective for protecting our environment and enhancing our countryside.”
However Shaun Spiers, director of the Green Alliance, expressed concern at the Repeal Bill, saying it was “very disappointing in many respects”.
“It falls well short of our expectations and I really hope the Government will think again and amend it,” he said.
Commenting on the Repeal Bill, Ben Stafford, head of campaigns at environmental group WWF, said most MPs agreed there was a need to improve the environment.
“If the Repeal Bill does bring EU environmental protections into UK law – and build upon and strengthen them – it will be a good start, but just a start,” he said.
“Only through strong laws and proper enforcement of them will we reverse the current decline in nature, ensure we honour our international commitments, and protect our countryside for future generations.”
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