Britain’s wildlife and natural environment is at risk of being damaged by a “deeply” worrying hole in protective laws when the nation leaves the European Union, a cross-party committee of MPs has warned today.
Whitehall has only committed to replicating a portion of current EU legislation that protects water and air quality, and controls chemicals and waste into the British statute book as part of the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Westminster’s environment committee, which is chaired by Wakefield MP Mary Creagh, said it was disappointed by a lack of firm environmental commitments in the Government’s response to the committee’s recommendations on the process.
Ms 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.”
Ms Creagh also warned that the Government does not appear to be committing to the creation of an environmental watchdog “with teeth”, as it has offered no confirmation on whether any such regulator would hold all public bodies to account, whether climate change would be in its remit or how it would exact enforcement.
Ms Creagh 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.
“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 Government’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment had urged the Government not to allow Brexit to weaken environmental protections.
The Government’s response, published today, states its planned actions would “hold future governments to account for delivering on their commitments to the natural world”.
It states: “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.”
Dorothy Fairburn, northern director of the Country Land and Business Association, said: “The UK has some of the highest environmental standards and principles in the world which land managers are rightly proud of. It is vital these are transferred into domestic law to ensure they are maintained and adequately funded through Brexit and beyond.”
GOVE TO ADDRESS FARMERS
Farmers will get the chance to question Environment Secretary Michael Gove at a conference in North Yorkshire next week.
Mr Gove will be a guest speaker at a free event held by the Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network, which is part of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS).
It will include talks from industry leaders covering all aspects of farming at the National Agri-food Campus in Sand Hutton near York on Thursday, November 15.
Nigel Pulling, chief executive of YAS, said: “We would appeal to the farming community to take up this opportunity and attend to have their voice heard.”