Opinion: Reasons to vote against ‘Brexit’ and stay in the EU

There’s less than 24 hours left until voters go to the polls to decide whether Britain will continue to be a member of the European Union.

As environmental lawyers, ClientEarth strongly believes that the advantages of remaining part of an EU which we concede, needs reform, far outweigh the risks and uncertainties of ‘Brexit.’

So, why does the European Union matter so much when it comes to environmental protections?

That’s because it’s far more than just birds and bees and barren landscapes and beaches – important though they all are.

Need for united protections

Crucially, it’s because some issues need concerted, united, continental and global action.

Leaving the EU would leave the UK bereft of influence in taking united action to deal with environmental issues on our doorstep.

What real good can one island nation do on its own to cope with pollution floating in on a “Saharan Dust” cloud – mostly, incidentally, made up of emissions from continental farms?

The answer:  Not a lot, especially if we get up and leave the table from where European environmental law is being decided.

If we leave, the future of our natural environment will be under great threat because we have the EU to thank for the bulk of our environmental laws.

In the event of Brexit, we’d keep some of these laws.  Which ones we’d retain is not at all clear, since those who seek to leave the EU are divided in their opinions.


In most cases, the UK would be left without a higher institution or mechanism to enforce many environmental rules.

Campaigners like ClientEarth will challenge any government, now or in the future, to comply with tough nature and wildlife laws. But in our view:

Leaving the EU would be disastrous for the UK’s wildlife. We need to keep the great EU laws that protect nature.

Yes, a future government could decide to implement tougher laws, but the evidence and past history shows this is a highly unlikely outcome of a vote to leave the European Union.


Leaving the EU would put at risk all hopes of achieving united action on climate change.

The UK has helped the EU lead the way on climate change and designed a climate change law which has earned great respect – on paper at least, even if there are hiccups to it working in practice. Just a few months ago, the UK government failed to close a gaping loophole.


EU supervises UK law

One crucial argument for staying in, is the ability for EU supervision which seeks to keep us honest on our environmental commitments. It also helps to counter the UK’s environmental lethargy.

While the EU has equipped us with a small arsenal of strong environmental laws – the UK still fails to comply with some of them – like air pollution.

Leaving the EU would be a catastrophe for UK air quality leaving the government, which is in breach of EU laws already, to introduce much weaker rules

With our ongoing legal challenge, ClientEarth has sought to compel the UK government to protect citizens and future generations from pollution which causes up to 40,000 early deaths a year, in addition to asthma, lung disease and other illnesses.

Court proceedings invoking EU law seems to be one threat which moves the government to action.

What about wildlife and nature? Birds are nomadic and need wide-ranging protections.


Leaving the EU would jeopardise our wildlife because the vital EU birds and habitats directives would no longer apply.

And the bees? The EU has made resilient laws – laws that are designed to keep pesticides that harm bees out of general use.


Leaving the EU would leave the UK without some of the best laws in the world which ensure that toxic chemicals are kept out of everyday products

Outside of the EU, national governments may not be so well equipped – or motivated – to stand up to those levels of pressure.


In the words of our CEO James Thornton, leaving the EU is the greatest political threat to the UK’s environment.

Leaving the EU would put nature, wildlife and environmental conservation at grave risk. It’s bonkers, ill-considered and idiotic.


Many fishermen believe that the CFP is to blame for the difficulties the industry has suffered in recent years. But in fact, now reformed, it’s helped create more sustainable fish stocks.

Leaving the EU would be a huge risk to UK fishermen and would threaten the fish stocks they rely on and the seas they fish in


Which brings us to an economic argument. The environment is fundamental to the survival of our economy. It can’t and shouldn’t be treated as an ancillary issue. It underpins virtually everything.

Leaving the EU would be a step into the unknown. We lack political answers about which environmental protections would be put in place if we leave the EU. It’s far too risky a step to take.

And so for these reasons, and many more besides – we believe that Britain is better off in the EU than out. If you care about the environment and the planet and the generations to come, it’s time to think green and vote ‘in’ for the environment.



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