Brexit bill 'gravely threatens' UK climate change protections, top environmentalists warn

Experts say green vision 'doomed to failure' without proper scrutiny post-Brexit

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Thursday 07 September 2017 00:07
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Environment Secretary Michael Gove arrives at 10 Downing Street
Environment Secretary Michael Gove arrives at 10 Downing Street

Environmental leaders have warned that the Government's Brexit legislation could “gravely threaten” its vision for a greener future outside the EU.

A group of top scientists, ecologists and engineers has written to Environment Secretary Michael Gove and David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, warning that the proposals could result in the watering down of crucial environmental policies and laws.

Mr Gove, one of the leading figures in the Leave campaign, used his first speech after being made Environment Secretary after the election to set out his vision for a 'Green Brexit', citing the divorce as an unprecedented chance to reform issues such as animal welfare and air quality.

However the Environmental Policy Forum (EPF), which represents several environmental professional bodies, said the Government's new Brexit legislation did not go far enough to protect existing environmental laws or offer parliamentary scrutiny on changes being brought forward.

It comes as MPs prepared for a two-day debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - sometimes referred to as the Repeal Bill - which will transfer EU law into domestic law when Britain leaves the bloc.

Professor Will Pope, EPF chair, said “The Government has welcome ambitions for the environment, with a new 25 year plan imminent and a commitment to improve environmental quality for future generations.

“Yet plans without appropriate tools and measures for delivery and scrutiny will be doomed to failure.

“Brexit offers certain opportunities to manage our environment in a more effective manner, more bespoke to UK needs.

“Yet it also presents real risks that measures which have achieved cleaner rivers, seas, towns and cities could be eroded.

“We are calling for appropriate checks and balances to be established from the outset, to ensure we do not risk becoming the ‘dirty man of Europe’ again.”

The group also called for the creation of an independent body, which would provide similar scrutiny to the European Commission on issues such as air quality.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We have set out our vision for a Green Brexit in which environmental standards are not only maintained but enhanced.

“As the Environment Secretary has said, we must consider how we can create new institutions to demonstrate environmental leadership as we leave the EU.

“We are determined to be global leaders in fighting climate change, tackling the illegal wildlife trade and promoting the highest standards of animal welfare.”

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