image of bench on lake district

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?

Share this...
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail to someone

John McSporran

Related articles

More from or

  • Red squirrel in Finland

    Public participation essential for designing EU Action Plan for nature

    ClientEarth has told the European Commission that public participation will be key to developing an Action Plan for implementing the Birds and Habitats Directives.

  • farming and river for story saying Polish water under threat as nitrate pollution laws fall short

    Polish water under threat as nitrate pollution laws fall short

    Despite declaring that a new Water Act to enter into force on 1 January 2017, the Polish Government has not yet set a date for submitting the draft law to parliament. This threatens Polish water resources and fragile ecosystems.

  • Białowieża case - Polish courtand

    Polish Ombudsman challenges Environment Minister’s decision to log Bialowieza Forest in court

    This week ClientEarth spoke in court in support of the Polish Ombudsman, in a case challenging the Polish Environment Minister’s decision to increase logging in the Bialowieza Forest.

  • English longhorn cow and calves, Knepp Estate

    Public money for public goods

    Replacing the Common Agricultural Policy means the UK can spend public money on public goods like natural flood management and wildlife habitat

  • Explore our work

    Follow us

    Newsletters

    Get our regular email newsletters, they contain the latest updates on our work as well as features and articles about environmental issues, science and politics.