Watchdog formed to maintain environmental standards post Brexit

Jack O'Donovan By: Jack O'Donovan
Date posted: 11 May 2018

Plans for a statutory watchdog ‘with teeth’ that will hold ministers publicly accountable on environmental standards during and after the Brexit transition, are proposed in consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).


Monitoring and reporting is only effective if it is backed up by compliance and effective enforcement.

Emma Crane,
Public Affairs Manager
Marine Conservation Society

Unfortunately, the consultation proposes to give the environment and countryside _less _protection after Brexit than exists now. If the EU environment laws are simply copied over in the Brexit withdrawal bill they will stand only as regulations, rather than laws.

“Whilst we welcome the announcement of an independent environmental watchdog it’s vital that it has teeth and is given enforcement powers. Monitoring and reporting is only effective if it is backed up by compliance and effective enforcement” said Emma Crane, Public Affairs Manager at the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

The watchdog will be independent and accountable to government, backed by sufficient funding and expertise to fortify their efforts. However, “there is no commitment to give the proposed new watchdog power to initiate legal action, nor is there any commitment to enshrine vital environmental principles, such as the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle, in law,” said Shaun Spiers, Chair of Greener UK and Executive Director of Green Alliance.

He continued: “This is hugely disappointing and suggests that some ministers do not want to be held to account on laws that protect our beaches, habitats and air quality.”

The government have been bold in their statements and ambitions in regards to issues including the announcement of a deposit return scheme, a proposed ban on plastic straws, cotton bud sticks and stirrers and a consultation on using the tax system or charges to tackle single-use plastic pollution. Now it is time to follow through with action that delivers. Here at MCS, we’ll scrutinise any plans and actions to make sure that, whatever comes of the process, the marine environment is given the utmost protection.

The consultation looks at environmental governance in England and areas where Westminster has responsibility across the UK. DEFRA have said that they are working with devolved administrations to see whether they wish to take a similar approach and co-design their proposals

Actions you can take

  1. Write to your MP to 'Save the laws' [campaign is now closed]
  2. Read more about Brexit and our seas

Did you know?…

70% of the oxygen in the air we breathe comes from the ocean

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is thought to be 6 times the size of the UK

Healthy seas lock in carbon and help protect the planet from the devastating effects of climate change