A network of environmental groups has warned the EU Withdrawal Bill ‘gravely threatens’ the ability to deliver a ‘Green Brexit’.
The Environmental Policy Forum, which represents around 70,000 environmental professionals has written to both environment secretary, Michael Gove, and Brexit secretary, David Davis, outlining their concerns about the bill, which is due to be debated by MPs today.
In a briefing document, which has been published online, the forum calls on ministers to provide some assurance that the UK’s citizens and environment will be ‘appropriately protected’ as Britain leaves the EU.
The briefing document also warns the Bill fails to provide appropriate parliamentary scrutiny for all the changes required to make UK environmental laws function.
It notes the powers contained in the Bill are ‘incredibly broad’ and will be able to achieve anything, including repealing or amending existing laws.
It also estimates between 800 and 1,000 statutory instruments are likely to be needed to address ‘deficiencies’ in retaining EU law through the Bill.
The briefing note adds leaving the EU will bring an end to the investigate role of the European Commission and the direct jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and so a new independent body will be needed to provide governance and enforcement.
It adds environmental issues often require long-term plans and EU membership has provided the UK with a framework, which provides ‘long-term strategic thinking outside the normal political cycles’.
‘The new body would advice on the need for, and form of, such plans and allow appropriate scrutiny through the parliamentary process,’ the document adds.
It also adds the EU Withdrawal Bill must not limit the ability of the devolved nations to improve environmental standards and the development of any common frameworks must be a ‘collaborative process’ and ‘agreed through consensus with other assemblies and parliaments.
The Bill has been criticised by others, including the Hansard Society for strengthening the hand of the executive and not Parliament through delegated ‘Henry VII’ powers, with inadequate scrutiny procedures for the ways these powers might be exercised.
“The government has welcome ambitions for the environment, with a new 25-year plan imminent and a commitment to improve environmental quality for future generations,’ said forum chair, Will Pope.
‘Yet plans without appropriate tools and measures for delivery and scrutiny will be doomed to failure. Brexit offers certain opportunities to manage our environment in a more effective manner, more bespoke to UK needs.
‘Yet it also presents real risks that measures which have achieved cleaner rivers, seas, towns and cities could be eroded. We are calling for appropriate checks and balances to be established from the outset, to ensure we do not risk becoming the “dirty man of Europe” again.’
Last month, CIWEM senior policy adviser Laura Grant wrote for Environment Journal on Michael Gove’s vision of a Green Brexit.
Photo by Andrew Gustar