Government running out of time to fulfil its 'green Brexit' promise

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 29 March 2018

Ministers are not backing up their pledges on governance, with bold new laws needed for nature’s recovery and a healthy environment.

Northcott Beach, Cornwall
© Andrew Bone

That’s according to Greener UK, a coalition of environmental organisations with whom the Marine Conservation Society works closely, today warns that time is running out for the government to fulfil its promise of a ‘green Brexit’.

The group says that, despite cross-party calls from MPs and peers, the government is declining to carry over all environmental legislation in the EU Withdrawal Bill, risking the protection of nature, water and air quality. The “world-leading” environment watchdog promised by Michael Gove in the autumn is yet to appear, and there are fears that the proposals will fall short of the environment secretary’s ambitions.

In a recent Efra Committee report, three ministers from other departments were reluctant to support an oversight body fully independent of government. Greener UK considers this body’s independence to be integral to its success in covering the environmental governance gap that will open up with Brexit. A lack of government-wide support would undermine Defra’s ambitions.

In a new call to action published today, Greener UK argues that a green Brexit will need:

The Conservative election manifesto pledged to leave the environment in a better state, and an estimated 80 per cent of environmental policy stems from EU law. Prime Minister Theresa May, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Environment Secretary Michael Gove have all promised to ensure Brexit strengthens our environmental standards. Amy Mount, of the Greener UK coalition, said:

“The government knows that no one voted for dirty beaches or the disappearance of much-loved wildlife from our gardens and wild places. But with city children choking on unhealthy air, and the future of British farming and fishing dependent on thriving ecosystems, environmental protections are not just a nice-to-have.

“With only one year to go until exit day, there are gaping holes to fill. We need new laws to make the statute book fit for the environmental challenges we face. And we need powerful, independent, well-resourced institutions to hold the authorities to account.

“The UK wants to be an international environmental leader. With ambitious new legislation at home enshrining the highest standards, the UK can credibly push for progress at the global scale. However, it has to seize this moment now, match actions to its green rhetoric and show the world what visionary leadership looks like.”

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