The UK Government plans to water down regulations surrounding climate change and illegal wildlife trading in an effort to help secure post-Brexit trade, civil service documents have reportedly revealed.
Tim Hitchens, the director general of economic and consular affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), will say in a speech later this month that the UK must change its focus to carry out Prime Minister Theresa May’s vision of the country as a “great, global trading nation”.
“You have a crucial role to play in posts in implementing our new approach to prosperity against the huge changes stemming from last year’s Brexit vote,” the notes seen by The Sunday Times read.
“Trade and growth are now priorities for all posts – you will all need to prioritise developing capability in this area. Some economic security-related work like climate change and illegal wildlife trade will be scaled down.”
A changing focus would reportedly make it easier for the UK to sign deals with Africa and Latin America.
The speech will take place on 26 April at a conference called Prosperity UK, sponsored by think tanks Legatum Institute and Open Europe.
The documents were contained in a folder belonging to a senior civil servant at the Department for International Trade, and were photographed by a passenger on a train.
They also expose tensions between that department and the FCO, which are in the same building.
Some senior civil servants have expressed frustration that Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, is more focused on signing tariff-free trade deals around the world than rolling back regulatory burdens.
Critics of Brexit and the Conservatives said they were concerned that the UK Government is planning to use its sweeping powers to determine which of the thousands of EU acts will be repealed and which will be maintained under UK law.
Trevor Hutchings, WWF Director of Advocacy, said the Government's commitment to the environment and to ending the illegal wildlife trade "must not be open to negotiation".
“The Government promised in its manifesto and in the recent Great Repeal Bill White Paper to leave the environment in a better state for future generations," he said.
"These documents - if genuine - fly in the face of these commitments, undermining government credibility."
Gina Miller, the woman who won her case at the Supreme Court and forced Ms May to consult Parliament before triggering Article 50, has threatened further legal action if the Government does take advantage of the so-called Henry VIII clause to make those changes.
Meanwhile, Ms May set off this week to tour the Gulf Cooperation Council and has already visited Donald Trump in the US to ensure trade deals after 2019.
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, told The Times: “This Government, not satisfied with delivering the greatest act of economic act of self-harm in history, is now threatening to disregard climate change and threaten the future of our planet. This leaked document shows that the government is now grubbing around for any idea and any principle it seems is up for sale.”
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