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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Is Brexit a threat to our environment?

The Independent features a House of Lords report which claims that the Government is “worryingly complacent” over how it will enforce environmental regulations after the UK leaves the European Union.

Peers believe that European institutions, such as the Commission and the Court of Justice have played a key role in ensuring member states upheld EU environmental regulations, with threat of heavy fines having a significant “deterrent effect”. As a result, campaign groups like ClientEarth have also been able to take the Government to court in the UK to force it to come up with an effective plan to cut air pollution to levels considered to be safe.

They say that under the Government’s plans for Brexit, much of EU law will be transferred onto the British statute book in an attempt to provide some continuity. But, while the rules will be broadly the same, members of the Lord’s EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee said an “effective and independent” system of enforcement would be required to “fill the vacuum” left by the European Commission.

The Lords Committee stressed that new procedure would need to be powerful enough to ensure the Government and public bodies stayed true to their environmental obligations:

But it was clear that the committee did not have confidence that the Government was planning to have such a system in the UK post-Brexit.

“The Government’s assurances that future Governments will, in effect, be able to regulate themselves, along with ministers’ apparent confusion between political accountability to Parliament and judicial oversight, are worryingly complacent,” they said in the report.

“We note the concerns of witnesses [giving evidence to the committee’s hearings] that existing domestic judicial review procedures may be inadequate and costly.

“It will be important for any effective domestic enforcement mechanism to have both regular oversight of the Government’s progress towards its environmental objectives, and the ability, through the courts, to sanction non-compliance as necessary.”

Another sign of how ill-prepared the UK Government is for the hard Brexit it favours.
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