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Working Towards a Greener Brexit

Working Towards a Greener Brexit

03 Aug 2018

The issues covered by this consultation are critically important to the Government’s ambition for the UK to be a “world leader” on environmental protection, as stated by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment. The importance of getting this right cannot be overstated and we particularly welcome the Government’s willingness to commit to new legislation to take this forward.

Introduction

1. CIEEM welcomes the Government’s consultation on Environmental Principles and Governance after EU Exit, which was published by Defra on 10 May 2018. The issues covered by this consultation are critically important to the Government’s ambition for the UK to be a “world leader” on environmental protection, as stated by the Prime Minister1 and the Secretary of State for the Environment2 . The importance of getting this right cannot be overstated and we particularly welcome the Government’s willingness to commit to new legislation to take this forward.

2. The above consultation sets out possible options for a new scrutiny body, noting that after the UK leaves the EU we will no longer be subject to the powers of the European Commission (EC) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). We strongly believe that a new body must not only replace the current powers of the EU and CJEU but, if we are to achieve that “word leader” status, must go beyond them. Accordingly, whilst we are pleased with the overall commitments in the consultation – on independence, some accountability and resourcing – we are very concerned that the proposals fall short in two particular areas:
i. The proposed new body has only an advisory role in respect of potential Government failings to comply with environmental legislation. It is essential that the body has meaningful enforcement powers in relation to all public bodies. Without enforcement powers the new body will have no way to hold Government to account, which is one of the objectives set out in paragraph 79.
ii. The UK Government must be far more proactive than appears to be the case in engaging the devolved administrations in order to secure ‘buy-in’. A UK-wide approach to environmental scrutiny and enforcement, owned and operated by all of the four nations, is the most effective way to ensure consistent high standards of environmental protection. 

3. At a time of huge uncertainty, a powerful expression of the commitment of the UK Government to protecting the environment would go a long way in reassuring stakeholders. The lack of conviction within these proposals is therefore disappointing and is also contrary to the Prime Minister’s stated aspiration for “a new, world-leading, independent, statutory body to hold government to account and give the environment a voice” 3 .

4. In the run up to the UK’s exit from the EU in March 2019 and beyond, there will be a need to build trust between government, NGOs and the public. Effective arrangements for genuine accountability and independent scrutiny are essential components to achieving this. Consequently, the decisions taken by Government now in respect of these proposals are hugely significant and powerful.

Click here to read CIEEM's full response. 

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