The government’s Repeal Bill – published yesterday (14 July) – will maintain the ‘body’ of current environmental laws as the UK leaves the EU, but uncertainty remains over policy direction post-Brexit.
Formally titled the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the legislation is intended to provide ‘legal certainty’ ahead of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
In documents published alongside the Bill, government has confirmed that it will seek to convert ‘the existing body of EU environmental law into UK law, making sure the same protections are in place in the UK and laws still function effectively after the UK leaves the EU.’
This essentially means that key pieces of legislation will continue to apply until the point at which the UK government lays fresh legislation in its place.
Of particular importance to the waste and recycling sector is the certainty over the future of laws stemming from European legislation including the Waste Framework, Packaging and Packaging Waste, Landfill and WEEE Directives.
And, the government has promised to produce a ‘comprehensive’ 25 Year Environment Plan – which has been in the pipeline since 2015 – which will set out how it plans to “improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again.”
In its environmental briefing document, the government stated: “We remain committed to safeguarding and protecting the UK’s long history of environmental protection. The Bill will incorporate existing EU environmental law into UK law and, as such, is intended to give certainty and continuity to business and organisations. We will also uphold our obligations under international environmental treaties.
“Any future changes to our legislation will be subject to the usual parliamentary scrutiny. We will work closely with communities, environmental organisations and other stakeholders to help build our future plans for environmental protection.”
Introducing the legislation yesterday, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, said: “This Bill means that we will be able to exit the European Union with maximum certainty, continuity and control. That is what the British people voted for and it is exactly what we will do – ensure that the decisions that affect our lives are taken here in the UK.
“It is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that has ever passed through Parliament and is a major milestone in the process of our withdrawal from the European Union.”
Despite offering ‘legal certainty’ over the future of existing laws, opposition parties have expressed concerns over the potential power that the proposals would give government to amend legislation without scrutiny.
And, questions remain over whether the European Union’s Circular Economy package will feature at all in the Bill’s proposals.
Commenting on the Bill, Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Green Party, has said that there is an ‘environment-shaped hole’ in the proposals, and expressed concerns over the enforcement of environmental laws in future.
She said: “There’s an enormous environment-shaped hole in the government’s Brexit plans. The Repeal Bill may transfer EU laws onto the British statute, but there’s no provision here for ensuring that these laws are properly enforced by institutions in the UK. The government knows that this simple transfer isn’t enough to ensure that our environment is protected – and their refusal to legislate for specific environmental protections and enforcement is reckless.
“I’ll be working with fellow MPs to table amendments to the Repeal Bill, specifically in order to force the Government to ensure that environmental laws are properly enforced as we go through the Brexit process.”
Repeal Bill White Paper