Defra not ready for no-deal Brexit
Date posted: 12 September 2018
National Audit Office says Defra won’t be ready for a No-Deal Brexit
The new Fisheries Bill is a once in a generation opportunity to fix our fisheriesSam Stone,
Head of Fisheries and Aquaculture
A report by the National Audit Office (NAO), which scrutinises public spending for Parliament, evaluates public spending and helps government improve public services says that, while Defra has made “good” progress in preparing to Exit the EU, the department “is now not able to deliver everything it originally intended for a ‘no-deal’ exit.”
MCS says that there is now a real danger that some key environmental legislation and policies may become lower on the priority list for the department.
MCS says this must not result in delays to the announcements of the 41 Marine Conservation Zones (in which EU legislation plays no part), or government action on plastics. The introduction of the first part of the Environment Bill, which will deal with critical areas of environmental governance after we leave the EU, needs to be completed urgently.
In particular, MCS is concerned that the new proposed Fisheries Bill will be far too slim and will not be able to deliver the change that our marine environment and coastal communities deserve. Sam Stone, MCS Head of Fisheries and Aquaculture says: “The new Fisheries Bill is a once in a generation opportunity to fix our fisheries to ensure they are truly sustainable and deliver for our coastal communities. Whether there is a Brexit deal or not, our Fisheries Bill needs to pave the way for improvement.”
Today is the final day of the Government’s consultation on its White Paper: Sustainable fisheries for future generations. Make sure you have your say and let the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, know why fisheries are not only about fish stocks: the whole marine ecosystem, the fishing industry and our coastal communities all depend on well-managed fisheries. Click here to respond.
The report says that plans to strengthen fisheries protection operations are unlikely to be ready by the time Britain leaves the EU. Sam Stone says: “For environmental legislation to be effective post EU-Exit, it needs to be properly enforced. Sufficient funding must be made available for monitoring and surveillance of our seas.”
EU Exit does pose an enormous challenge for Defra in translating EU environmental legislation into UK law before the 29th March next year. Defra has 55 work streams, out of the 319 across government, but it also has £320 million in public funds available to it for Brexit spending in 2018-2019. Whilst it is not surprising that timescales are slipping, it is vital that there is a plan for how legislation to protect the environment will be upheld through the uncertain times ahead.
Through EU Exit, MCS wants to see:
- Strengthened environmental protections that build on existing EU legislation.
- An ambitious Environment Bill which sets measurable environmental targets for our seas that will restore marine biodiversity, with progress against targets monitored and regularly reported.
- The core environmental principles included on the face of the Environment Bill.
- An environmental watchdog that is independent from governments and holds public bodies to account for breaches of environmental law.
- A Fisheries Bill that has sustainability at its’ core and as an explicit aim on the face of the Bill.
Co-design and co-development with the Devolved Administrations will be vital to ensure a consistent approach across the UK.
Getting all of this right will be complex and will take time, and so there must be contingency plans in place to ensure that our marine environment is not impacted simply because the task is too great in the time available.
The NAO has recommended that Defra now accelerates its planning for the withdrawal agreement while also finalising its contingency plans.
Overfishing and damaging fishing practices have reduced many fish stocks and harmed the seabed, threatening marine wildlife and coastal communities.
Today is the final day of the Government’s consultation on its White Paper: Sustainable fisheries for future generations. Make sure you have your say and let the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, know why fisheries are not only about fish stocks: the whole marine ecosystem, the fishing industry and our coastal communities all depend on well-managed fisheries. Today is your last chance to have your say on the consultation, or click the image. It will take 1 minute.
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