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House of Lords warning over Brexit and environmental laws

A committee of the House of Lords has said that leaving the EU will have a significant impact on environment and climate change policies in the UK.

In a report ‘Brexit: environment and climate change’ published today, the committee has found that maintaining existing standards of environmental protection through the Great Repeal Bill will be an immensely difficult task, given the complex and extensive nature of environmental legislation.

ClientEarth biodiversity lawyer Catherine Weller said:

“The House of Lords has confirmed the immense risk to the UK environment posed by Brexit. Maintaining existing standards through the Great Repeal Bill will be a hugely complex task.”

“As a first step, the government must enshrine current environmental protections in law – we’ll be watching closely to ensure that they do this and they don’t sneak in a way to undo these protections overnight.”

The report also found that ‘a risk of a vacuum’ may exist once the EU institutions (the European Commission and European Court of Justice) no longer have oversight or enforcement of environmental laws.

These institutions have had a major impact on the UK’s compliance in the past. The government seems to be worryingly complacent about the loss of this enforcement regime. As such, the committee has recommended that an independent enforcement mechanism will be needed to fill this vacuum.

Weller added:

“The Lords rightly highlighted the danger of a lack of oversight and enforcement once the UK leaves the EU. We agree that a strong, independent domestic mechanism is crucial to make sure effective environmental laws are made and followed.”

“This mechanism must be underpinned by judicial oversight. People must be able to go to court to defend the environment. This is the only way to make sure the environmental gains of the last 40 years are not lost – the best way to protect people and the planet.”

The EU is the source of the majority of environmental legislation in the UK. This means that leaving the EU will have a significant impact on environment and climate change policies in the UK.

ClientEarth will continue to fight for strong environmental laws after the UK leaves the European Union.

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Jim Monk

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