Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement that the UK will have a General Election on 8 June has cast short-term uncertainty over a number of policy measures such but could mean more certainty over existing EU-linked legislation.
And, it is expected to see the departure of yet another recycling minister with Dr Therese Coffey, the current post-holder, having been in the post a little more than a year. A ministerial reshuffle would be on the cards after the General Election if the Conservatives win and new faces could be expected in the post from Labour or the Lib Dems were they to win.
MPs are expected to approve a motion tomorrow (19 April) in favour of calling an election three years ahead of what had been expected to be the next ballot in 2020.
Speaking outside 10 Downing Street this morning, the Prime Minister – who had previously ruled out an early General Election – said that the decision had been taken to shore up support within Parliament over the UK’s negotiations to leave the European Union.
She said: “At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not.”
Mrs May accused rival political parties from threatening to vote against any deal the government might reach with the EU, and added: “Our opponents believe that because the Government’s majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course. They are wrong.”
In an immediate response to the announcement of a General Election vote in Parliament, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS.”
The shock announcement comes just weeks after the government triggered Article 50 – which marks the beginning of the formal negotiation process over the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Many in the recycling and waste management sector are keen to see EU environmental legislation transposed into UK law through the Great Repeal Bill. Some are expected to consider that a more substantial Conservative majority, as is being forecast by most pundits, would help get the Bill through and so secure environmental policies.
Great Repeal Bill
The current government has already confirmed that existing laws derived from EU legislation will be safeguarded prior to Brexit (see letsrecycle.com story).
But, the government has also hinted that it will seek to develop its own, ‘outcome driven’ policies on the environment.
In the short term, there could be delays to some policy measures including work by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on rules covering charging at civic amenity sites/household waste recycling centres.
And, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs soon to move in with the DCLG in London there could even be closer working between the two departments.
Defra’s long-term 25 year plan for the environmental is expected to face further delays. The Minister for resources and waste, Dr Coffey, has suggested that the 25-year plan would offer an opportunity for ‘reshaping waste and resources policy and regulatory framework’ (see letsrecycle.com story).
Other short term work that could be impacted is the next stage of work on waste crime policies linking in with a review of waste exemptions. Some in the waste management industry are pressing Defra and the Environment Agency to bring an end to the option for waste management sites to be able to operate under licensing exemptions.
Speaking to letsrecycle.com Nick Molho, executive director of Aldersgate Group – an environmental consortium of businesses and politicians – said that while delays to some policy initiatives are likely, the election also offers an opportunity for stronger measures on the environment from the major political parties.
“There is an opportunity now for all the major parties to put together what their vision for Britain post-Brexit is and we would strongly argue that the low carbon economy should form a part of that.”
He said: “The negative angle is that it does mean inevitably any major policy announcements will be delayed. One is the Clean Growth Plan and there will obviously also be an impact on the Industrial Strategy. The 25-year plan is also going to be delayed and that covers resource efficiency and the natural capital agenda.
“On the other hand, there is an opportunity now for all three major parties to put together what their vision for Britain post-Brexit is and we would strongly argue that the low carbon economy should form a part of that. All the parties have an opportunity to show that Brexit won’t be a symbol of massive deregulation.”