Alarm has been raised by environmental charities after the government revealed its plans to ‘sunset’ all retained EU laws.
The government said it wanted to cut a billion pounds worth of red tape and “burdensome EU regulation” and allow the UK to create regulations “tailor-made for its people”.
The Brexit Freedoms Bill proposes to end the special status retained EU law has on the UK statute books by 2023, meaning domestic law will be reinstated as the highest form of law on the UK’s statute books.
Business Secretary, Jacob Rees Mogg who unveiled the bill argued it would pave the way for regulations that work for the UK so businesses and the economy can innovate and grow.
However, environmental groups are concerned this will undo decades of environmental progress. In the past, the UK government has been found to have repeatedly failed to adhere to its own air pollution targets, and been taken to court by campaign group, ClientEarth.
Post-Brexit, the government committed to halt the decline of nature and environmentalists, arguing that revoking 570 environmental laws rolled over from the EU law amounts to a deregulatory free-for all and leaves the environment unprotected.
Wildlife charity, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said the bill, alongside other recent proposals are “an unprecedented attack on nature and the laws that protect it” by the UK government. In the past month the government has paused plans to help farmers protect nature, relaxing planning rules, scrapped laws around protecting habitats, and scrapped the ban on fracking.
“We are readying ourselves to fight the biggest attack on nature in a generation and are calling on our partners, supporters, and people who love their local wildlife, to help.”
Jeff Knott, RSPB Director of Policy and Advocacy described the government’s actions as “one of the most brazen attacks on nature we have ever seen.” He added: “Now we are readying ourselves to fight the biggest attack on nature in a generation and are calling on our partners, supporters, and people who love their local wildlife, to help by contacting their MPs and making themselves heard.”
Joan Edwards, Director of Policy at The Wildlife Trusts said: “This is the most destructive set of policies I have seen in over 35 years of working in nature conservation. At a time when nature needs us most, the government is threatening to turn a very bad situation into a complete disaster.”
Gary McFarlane, CIEH Director for Northern Ireland, said the potential removal of environmental legislation and standards, which are rooted in protecting people’s health and wellbeing, is hugely concerning. He added that it is not just environmental standards that are threatened by such a proposal but food standards, safety standards and countless other regulations that exist to protect the public.
“I cannot remember a more concerning political statement in terms of the potentially negative impact on environmental health in my entire professional career,” said McFarlane.
A government spokesperson said: “Claims we intend to go back on our commitment to the environment are simply not right.
“A strong environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand. We have legislated through the Environment Act and will continue to improve our regulations and wildlife laws in line with our ambitious vision.
“We want every corner of our country to prosper too. Bureaucratic processes in the planning system do not necessarily protect the environment so, by making sure we have the right regulations for our nation, we can make this happen.”
But McFarlane says the government seems “fixated” on dismantling public protection: “To suggest that these controls inhibit or impede business is in my opinion unjustified and unjustifiable. We simply cannot continue to prioritise economic growth over environmental protection. We have done that for decades prior to the introduction of the laws that currently protect it. Where has that got us?”