Campaigners have launched a legal challenge over the government’s Brexit agenda which they say may weaken protections for wildlife and the seas.
Environmental law firm ClientEarth and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) are working with lawyers to take the government to court over powers in the Withdrawal Act.
Campainers claim that the changes breach the Government’s promise of a “green Brexit”.
They claim the new powers will allow ministers to alter and reduce standards for protected sites and change how the law operates in the UK.
The measures introduced “behind the scenes” could put seals, otters, dolphins seabirds and other animals at risk.
Plants and precious sites around the UK could also be at risk, the environmental groups 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.”