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Press release: 18 October 2019
Environmental lawyers have condemned the UK government’s proposed Brexit deal, ahead of tomorrow’s Parliamentary vote, as being a serious risk for the environment.
Scrutiny of the updated withdrawal agreement by legal experts from ClientEarth has revealed that crucial legally binding protections are now gone, resulting in the risk of lower environmental standards if the deal passes.
That is a particular concern if the UK was under pressure to deregulate from trade deals with countries such as the United States.
ClientEarth global programmes counsel Karla Hill said: “This deal utterly fails to guarantee the future of environmental standards in the UK post-Brexit. The binding part of the agreement contains nothing about environmental standards across the UK and the new, non-binding political declaration merely notes that the parties should maintain environmental standards’.
“There is a concerning lack of detail as to what this means in practice. Should this deal pass, our environmental protections will be at huge risk of watering down and deregulation.
“When coupled with the Environment Bill, published this week – which also fails to provide a legal block on regression in environmental standards, among other flaws – it paints a bleak picture for future legal environmental protection in the UK.”
ClientEarth’s full statement on the updated Brexit deal is as follows:
The updated Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration between the EU and the UK fail to guarantee the future of environmental standards in the UK post-Brexit. The binding part of the agreement contains nothing about environmental standards across the whole of the UK. The crucial legally binding environmental non-regression and governance provisions from the November 2018 deal are gone. The new, non-binding political declaration merely notes that the parties should maintain environmental standards. There is a concerning lack of detail as to what this means in practice and how it will be policed, and no mention of progress to higher environmental standards in future. Should this deal pass, our environmental protections will be at huge risk of future watering down and deregulation, including under pressure from trade deals with countries such as the US.
The Environment Bill (published this week) also fails to put in place a legal block on regression in environmental standards. Such a commitment, similar to ones found in existing French Law and the IUCN’s draft Global Pact for Nature, is much needed. The Bill as a whole does not put in place strong enough commitments to take action now to tackle the environmental crisis: new targets for air pollution are not legally robust, ambitious or urgent, and the proposed new office of environmental protection and governance regime does not guarantee that the public will be able to hold the government to its environmental commitments.
ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.