Water in the manifestos: Brexit, agriculture and the environment


EU environmental standards

Via a Great Repeal Bill, EU law will be converted into UK law. “This approach means that the rights of workers and protections given to consumers and the environment by EU law will continue to be available in UK law at the point at which we leave the EU.” There are no guarantees of keeping these environmental standards for the longer term: “Once EU law has been converted into domestic law, parliament will be able to pass legislation to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law it chooses, as will the devolved legislatures, where they have the power to do so.”

Environmental protection

The party reiterated its pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it inherited it. It also reiterated a commitment to its long awaited 25 Year Environment Plan “that will chart how we will improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again”.

Agri-environment – It committed the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the parliament. Beyond that: “We will work with farmers, food producers and environmental experts across Britain and with the devolved administrations to devise a new agri-environment system, to be introduced in the following parliament.”

Flooding – “We will deliver on our commitment to improve natural flood management, such as improving the quality of water courses to protect against soil erosion and damage to vulnerable habitats and communities.”


EU environmental standards

Labour plans to drop the Conservatives’ Great Repeal Bill, replacing it with an EU Rights and Protections Bill “that will ensure there is no detrimental change to workers’ rights, equality law, consumer rights or environmental protections as a result of Brexit.” It said these rights will be fully protected “without qualifications, limitations or sunset clauses…A Labour approach to Brexit will ensure there can be no rolling back of key rights and protections and that the UK does not lag behind Europe in workplace protections and environmental standards in future.”

Environmental protection – On top of the general commitment to keep up the green pace, there is a specific commitment to safeguard habitats and species in the ‘blue belts’ of the seas and oceans surrounding the country.

Liberal Democrat

EU environmental standards

The pro-EU Lib-Dems plan to hold a second referendum to give the people the choice to vote for the exit deal Britain negotiates with the EU over the next two years, with the alternative option of staying in the EU on the ballot paper. Assuming departure progresses, the party plans to fight a hard Brexit. It has committed to a long term alignment with European environment and climate change policy, promising to “ensure that everything is done to maintain those high standards in UK law, including the closest possible co-operation on climate and energy policy.”


The Lib-Dems will continue their long campaign to reform agricultural subsidies, “rebalancing away from direct subsidy and refocusing support towards the public benefits that come from effective land management including countryside protection, flood prevention, food production and climate-change mitigation”.

Environmental protection – In the only overt reference to water quality for its own sake in the manifesto collection published so far, the party committed to “protect and restore England’s lakes, rivers and wetlands, including through reform of water management and higher water-efficiency standards, and establish a ‘blue belt’ of protected marine areas”. It also promised a Nature Act to put the Natural Capital Committee on a statutory footing; set legally binding natural capital targets, including on biodiversity, clean air and water; and empower the NCC to recommend actions to meet these targets.


Establishment of a £2 billion flood-prevention fund focused on providing support for small community and council-led schemes to reduce upstream flooding, and the knock-on effects in downstream and coastal areas, in addition to improving flood defences, and introducing high standards for flood resilience for buildings and infrastructure in flood-risk areas.

Plaid Cymru


Plaid Cymru said it would fight to ensure every penny of European funding (which accounts for 80% of Welsh farm incomes) is replaced by the UK government.

Environmental protection – the party plans to update and consolidate Welsh wildlife legislation via a new Wildlife Act for Wales.

Green Party

EU environmental standards

Staunch remainer, The Green Party, promises a referendum on the detail of whatever deal is negotiated for Brexit, with the option to reject the deal and remain in the EU. It will fight to put environmental protection at the heart of any future trade deals and “ensure that existing environmental laws are retained or enhanced, no matter our future relationship with the European Union. We will ensure that important principles – such as the Precautionary and Polluter-Pays principles – are transposed into UK statute books.”

Environmental protection

The Greens value the environment as the heart of the economy and society. They promise an Environmental Protection Act to guarantee strong protections for the natural environment and oceans and to include a 25 year target for biodiversity, water and air quality. They plan to create a new environmental regulator and court to effectively monitor and enforce environmental law, including new statutory requirements for updates to (and debates in) Parliament on the state of nature and biodiversity. In addition the Party would implement a Blue New Deal to regenerate coastal communities “harnessing the potential of our seas whilst protecting the marine environment”, and as part of a circular economy initiative (with particular focus on curtailing plastic bottle pollution), provide for free public water dispensers and a community refill scheme.


The Green Party intended to create more sustainable farming and land-use policies that are focussed on restoring the UK’s natural environment. Public funding for the rural economy will be refocused towards restoring biodiversity, sustainable land management and farming, improving animal welfare, and tackling climate change.

Flooding – The Green manifesto promises to “invest in a climate-proof future – for example, by building flood defences, investing in natural flood management, including restoring uplands, to make every community safe.”


EU environmental standards

The SNP sees Brexit as a threat to environment protection. It pledges that “SNP MPs will hold the Tories to account to ensure that the rights and protections currently safeguarded by EU membership are not diminished after the UK leaves.” As part of a desired review of the existing devolution arrangements, the party’s manifesto says SNP MPs will seek additional powers including those “that will be repatriated from Brussels to the UK that currently sit within the competences of the Scottish Parliament, like agriculture, fisheries and environmental protection”. The manifesto adds: “We are determined to safeguard the advances which have already been made, while continuing to protect and enhance our environment in the years ahead.”


The UK government rejected the Scottish Government’s proposals for Scotland to remain in the Single Market as the UK leaves the EU. The SNP argues being taken out of the Single Market “poses a real and present danger” to some 80,000 jobs including those of Scottish farmers and fishermen. If it wins in Scotland, the party says it will have a mandate to “demand a place for Scotland at the Brexit negotiating table and the inclusion of the case for our place in the Single Market in the UK’s negotiating remit.” At any rate, the Party vows to “fight off a Tory power and money grab” as agricultural funding outside of the EU is settled. It explains: “Before the EU Referendum, the UK government promised to match current EU funding, which is worth half a billion pounds every year to Scotland’s rural and remote communities, “without a shadow of a doubt”. Now they refuse to provide any guarantees over funding beyond Brexit, and want a UK wide funding mechanism. With a 16 per cent share of current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding, there is no doubt that Scotland would lose out. Just as we will expect all powers over agriculture and rural policy to be repatriated to Scotland, there should be no question that we should have full control of EU agricultural funding following Brexit.”