The Brexit process must not lead to any watering down of existing standards on the environment, including protection of our rivers.
The government has said that its Repeal Bill will convert EU law into UK law and that Parliament – and the devolved legislatures, where they have the power to do so – will then be able to repeal, amend or replace any EU-derived laws as necessary in the future. The government has made further assurances that the Repeal Bill will mean ‘the whole body of existing EU environmental law continues to have effect in UK law.’
I welcome this commitment, but I am concerned that the Repeal Bill as proposed would contain sweeping powers for the Executive, with no enhanced safeguards. I am concerned it will not go far enough to ensure UK environmental standards keep pace with the EU after we leave.
The manifesto I stood on at the general election committed to introduce an EU Rights and Protections Bill to ensure there is no detrimental change to environmental protections through Brexit. We must ensure that that all EU-derived laws that are of benefit to our environment are fully protected without qualifications, limitations or sunset clauses. There is an opportunity for more progressive and ambitious domestic policies which go beyond EU standards.
The government has also outlined proposals for a new Agriculture Bill which is intended to provide stability to farmers as we leave the EU and also to protect our natural environment for future generations. I will hold the government to account on this.
The long-awaited 25 Year Environment Plan is still outstanding and it has been reported that its publication can no longer be guaranteed this year. Such a delay would be unacceptable and only further confirms that the government’s record on combating climate change and environmental damage is one of inaction and broken promises.
I will be looking very carefully at the detail of the Repeal Bill once it is published and will press for environmental standards to be protected and strengthened.