A new report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has identified potential weaknesses in the proposed transfer of environmental protection laws under the Great Repeal Bill – recently heard described as the GERBill – Great European Repel Bill!
The report – The Future of the Natural Environment after the EU Referendum – runs to 55 pages and makes seven key recommendations, the first of which is that the Government should commit to creating a new Environmental Protection Act before we leave the EU. Other recommendations include:
- ensuring that Defra can continue to operate post-Brexit and that sufficient funds are identified to ensure there is no drop in environmental funding for farm businesses, animal welfare, food security or food safety;
- ensuring that 25 year plans for the Natural Environment and for Food, Farming and Fisheries are published and consulted on prior to the triggering of Article 50 so that requirements can be included in the Brexit negotiations;
- ensuring that Brexit negotiations take account of the impact of changes on the UK environment and on agriculture. The report identifies areas where legislation aimed at protection – such as the Birds and Habitats Directives – may be weakened or completely removed by Brexit;
- ensure that extant legislation that may be difficult to transpose directly – such as the REACH regulation for example – is identified prior to Article 50 being triggered, and kept at the forefront of legislative concerns during negotiations. Moreover, the Committee seek guarantees that environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety will not form part of trade-offs during the negotiation period;
- ensure that land management paymens models and objectives are clearly established before Brexit;
- ensure that the devolved administrations work together to ensure environmental protection continues and that our international (generally UK wide) obligations are met.
Whilst some see the report as identifying environmental threats, it can also be read as identifying environmental opportunities, helping us to determine what we do want to see in the new post-Brexit world. This is especially true of the opportunities to learn from differences in devolved implementations.