Warning over gap in environmental protections after Brexit

Mary Creagh

Westminster's environment committee has warned over a gap in environmental protections after Britain leaves the EU.

Mary Creagh, who chairs the Environmental Audit Committee, said she was "deeply" worried there would be a hole in laws covering chemicals, waste, water and air.

The government's response to the committee's recommendations, published today, still leaves one third of the current EU legislation not replicated in the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Creagh said: "It is deeply worrying that the response does not commit to replace the one third of EU environmental legislation that cannot be copied and pasted into UK law after Brexit.

"It should set five-yearly wildlife budgets, so people can see taxpayers' money being spent on public goods like flood prevention, protecting species from extinction and restoring our soils."

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Creagh also warned the response did not appear to be creating a watchdog with teeth, as there was no confirmation on whether the regulator would hold all public bodies to account, whether climate change would be in its remit or how it would exact enforcement.

She said: "The government's woolly response makes no firm commitments on the future governance of the environment after Brexit, which is of great concern, given that the Agriculture Bill is making its way through Parliament.

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"If we want a world-leading environment, we need a strong, independent environmental watchdog which ministers cannot quietly put to sleep.

"The government's draft Bill must make the new watchdog accountable to Parliament."

The committee's original report on the 25 Year Plan for the Environment had urged the government not to allow Brexit to weaken environmental protections.

The report stated: "The government must not allow leaving the EU to weaken environmental protection in the UK.

"As a minimum, the proposed watchdog must replicate or build on the role the EU institutions play in protecting our environment.

"The government's proposals as yet do not do that. The draft Bill required by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act must do so."

The government response stated its planned actions would "hold future governments to account for delivering on their commitments to the natural world".

It added: "Taken together our plans will provide a bespoke, nationally-determined framework once we are no longer covered by the existing environmental scrutiny, complaints and enforcement functions carried out by European Commission and European Environment Agency."

Creagh said the committee would be closely monitoring the details in the proposed draft legislation and forthcoming policy statement.

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