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Brexit ‘the greatest political threat to the environment in the UK’

“Brexit is the most dangerous political threat to the environment that we face in the UK,” environmental lawyer James Thornton has warned today.

Speaking to the Guardian, the ClientEarth CEO explained that membership of the EU has positively influenced the way the UK approaches  decisions that affect the environment. Experience shows, meanwhile, that when left to its own devices the UK does not choose paths that are good for nature.

He argues that those politicians who want to leave the EU because it imposes rules on the UK fail to recognise those regulations offer necessary protection for the environment. Removing the requirements of EU law seriously diminishes protections for our seas, our air and habitats in the UK and across the globe.

Brexit and environment: EU laws need better enforcement

James holds up the UK’s failure to tackle air pollution blighting its towns and cities as evidence of the need for EU oversight.

“If you have a country in which the government is clearly happy to let its people suffer the appalling impacts of air pollution, we need some external guidance to help them take care of their own citizens,” he said.

James also rebuffs assertions from environment minister George Eustice that EU regulations are ‘clunky’, saying  “the EU’s environmental laws are extremely well-designed. There is no doubt , however, that they should be better enforced.”

ClientEarth’s lawyers work on the implementation of a broad range of national and EU environmental laws and regulations crucial to the defence of our forests, oceans, habitats and health.

James has previously argued that that EU membership forces the UK and other EU countries to meet a better standard of protection for nature than they would otherwise reach on their own.

This post was updated on 21 December 2016 to better reflect research into the health impacts of air pollution. Air pollution and your health – what are the facts?

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John McSporran

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