As the Cabinet meets today to discuss the progress on a Brexit agreement, Defra has reemphasised that work is underway to ensure there are no interruptions to waste shipments post-Brexit.
A series of Statutory Instruments are to be introduced which will implement EU waste law in the UK post-Brexit. But, the Department is also working on additional work involved if there is a no-deal situation, which has been reflected in a Notice earlier this year.
Meanwhile, a top UK environmental lawyer and Brexit specialist, has spoken of the challenges ‘no deal’ would bring and also pointed out that Brexit has the potential to disrupt the import of hazardous waste from Ireland for treatment in the UK.
A spokesperson for Defra – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – told letsrecycle.com that: “It is in the interests of both the EU and the UK to strike a good deal and we are confident this will be achieved. But as a responsible Government we are making plans for all possible outcomes, including the unlikely event that we reach March 2019 without an agreement.”
The spokesperson continued: “We continue to work with all relevant regulators in the UK and in Europe on extensive preparations to ensure there are no interruptions to waste shipments.”
Defra’s stance comes in the wake of a document last week from the European Union Commission which gave details of how arrangements might work if the UK leaves the EU without agreement, albeit that most commentators feel this is unlikely.
The Department has published its own Technical Notice on waste, offering guidance to UK businesses on how to prepare for Brexit should the UK leave without a deal.
It is likely to be reassuring to the waste sector that it has said that it will introduce Statutory Instruments to ensure existing EU legislation on waste continues to have effect in UK law after 29 March next year.
And, whatever type of Brexit occurs, the UK will remain a party to the Basel Convention and will continue to be a member of the OECD and the rules in these agreements will have to be followed. It is also understood that Defra intends that UK and EU regulations and procedures regarding waste shipments will both continue to reflect shared international commitments under the Basel Convention and the OECD Decision.
Referring to last week’s European Union Commission notice for a no deal Brexit and what it would mean for the waste sector (see letsrecycle.com story)
Senior UK lawyer Angus Evers told letsrecycle.com that this was in effect the “flip side” of a paper put out by the UK earlier this year. “We are dealing here with no deal technical notices which aim to maintain the continuity of waste shipments.”
Mr Evers is a partner at law firm Shoosmiths and is also co-convenor of the Brexit group at UKELA, the UK’s environmental lawyers association, said that these notices “did not say anything surprising and that the aim would actually be an agreement to keep business as it is now, where things work fairly smoothly in terms of shipments.”
He said that should no agreement be reached, “a key point for importers and exporters of waste who have an existing approval or consent for shipment of that waste, it is going to become invalid on the 29th March next year.”
And, Mr Evers emphasised that without a deal there would be a big increase in paperwork and bureaucracy and that there could well be more paperwork even with a deal. “Both the UK and EU notices say that there has got to be a new reapproval process and that has still to be worked out.”
In terms of imports of waste to the UK, he added that there were concerns in Ireland that there could be a legal impact on hazardous waste with about 40% of Ireland’s hazardous waste going to the UK for treatment. It remains unclear how this would be allowed or planned for when the UK leaves the EU.