Brexit Bill jeopardises green protection

Green coalition Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) has warned that the Brexit Bill before Parliament “puts the principles of environmental law at great risk in the UK”.

In a blog post for the group, Richard Benwell, co-chair of WCL’s 25 Year Plan working group and head of government affairs at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, said the government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill should enshrine European environmental principles such as on sustainable development and polluter pays. However, the Bill as it stands falls short.

In particular, it limits the legal remedies available when general principles are contravened. Benwell said: “As the bill is currently drafted, if a public body contravenes the principles of environmental law, it will not be possible to challenge the action in court.”

Secondly, the Bill fails to replicate EU law in ensuring the environmental principles are forward-looking and play a formative role in guiding day-to-day decisions and policy development. Benwell: “In the months and years ahead the principles of environmental law should be applied to UK decision-making in a number of high-risk areas, such as trade policy, chemicals regulation and infrastructure planning…Unless the bill is amended, the legal force of the environmental principles to guide future policy and decision-making will be completely lost.”

WCL called on the government to explicitly include the EU’s environmental principles in UK law for the purpose of interpreting the law, enforcement in court, and guiding decision-making. It concluded: “Only by faithfully converting EU environmental protection into UK law can we go further and deliver the ambition to pass on our environment in better condition.”