Despite the UK Government’s Environment Bill, the talk among Whitehall civil servants suggests environmental standards will diverge from the European standards pretty rapidly after Brexit to facilitate new trade deals, writes Dr Richard Dixon. With Brexit in the balance, it is worth remembering how much of our environmental progress could be under threat if we do leave the EU. In the 1980s, Britain was known as ‘the Dirty Man of Europe’ because of our widespread pollution of air, land and water. It is largely thanks to 45 years of European laws on industrial pollution, water quality, nature protection and clean air that the environment we live in has improved. Sometimes the UK has been a willing participant, sometimes even a leader, but often we have been dragged along to meet standards others in Europe take for granted. Although all the laws on the environment from the EU will be locked in on the day we actually leave the EU, the point of Brexit is that we can change our laws in any way we like, including weakening environment and product standards to allow us to do trade deals with countries like the US. The other thing we lose is the opportunity to appeal to the European courts when our government fails to respect environmental laws. The threat of embarrassment in Europe and the prospect of daily fines has concentrated the mind of many a minister. The UK Government last week published their long-awaited Environment Bill which promises new targets on air pollution, water, waste and nature and an Office of Environmental Protection to replace European scrutiny of what ministers and public authorities are up to.
Scotsman 22nd Oct 2019 read more »