Aerial shot of the River Severn winding through countryside

Laws protecting people and nature ‘are weaker’ post-Brexit

Air pollution and waste among environmental policy areas most likely to suffer.
17 March 2021 , Katie Coyne

Brexit has left some environmental problems at risk of getting worse, the coalition of green charities Greener UK has said.

Charities in the coalition including Client Earth, The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB argued this is because most of the UK’s environmental protections derive from EU law.

Leaving the EU has left holes in existing standards, and they fear new regulators – such as the Office for Environmental Protection – are weaker and less independent than those they replace.

Greener UK has been tracking this risk to environmental policies since 2017.

The tracker covers eight areas and assigns a traffic light rating of red (high risk), yellow (medium risk) and green (low risk). Latest research puts half of these areas in the high risk category: air pollution; chemicals; waste and resources; and nature protection.

None is marked green (low risk), with the remainder – fisheries; climate and energy; water; and farming and land use – in the medium risk category.

The Wildlife Trusts chief executive Craig Bennett said: "We were solemnly promised that the UK would maintain and enhance our environmental standards after Brexit.

"Although that might have happened in some areas, massive gaps have opened up as a result of this process – and enforcement is weaker across the board.

“The massive declines in the abundance of the natural world really matter – for wildlife, for people's health and because wild places store carbon and help us to tackle the climate crisis – but the new standards do nothing to address this.”

Sarah Williams of Greener UK said: "The government said Brexit would see improved environmental standards, but laws that protect people and nature are set to be weaker now than they were before.

"There is still time for the government to make its plans stronger, particularly for chemicals and air pollution, and follow through on promising proposals for farming. We really hope it does so."

Greener UK pointed to research it carried out in December 2016 that found 80% of the public thought the UK should have the same, or stronger, environmental protections after leaving the EU.

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