The government must commit to a new Environmental Protection Act to ensure that environmental protections are maintained in UK law when the country leaves the EU, a cross-party group of MPs has claimed.
This was among the findings of the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee, which today (4 January) published its report on the Future of the Natural Environment after the EU Referendum.
According to the Committee, the EU has helped to shape ‘over 80%’ of UK environmental legislation on issues including agriculture, air quality and waste.
And, the report has claimed that although the government has pledged to pass a Great Repeal Bill to retain European legislation when the UK leaves the EU, there is a risk that some pieces of legislation could be ‘eroded’ without the legislative protections afforded by the EU.
In its report, the Committee notes: “The government should legislate for a new Environmental Protection Act whilst Article 50 negotiations are ongoing to maintain the UK’s environmental standards. The Act should be in place before we leave the EU. This would reduce the risk of ‘zombie legislation’, which is a term which describes EU legislation transposed into UK law which is no longer updated and which can be eroded through statutory instruments with minimal parliamentary scrutiny.”
The Committee has also called for the government to: “…guarantee that it will not trade away environmental protections, animal welfare and food safety standards, as part of the negotiations to leave, or as part of future trade deals”.
MPs have also argued that the UK is at risk through a loss of knowledge sharing over issues relating to the environment, and has urged the establishment of “arrangements for collaboration over cross-border environmental issues” to form a part of negotiation with the EU.
Publication of the report has followed four evidence sessions which have included input from Defra minister Thérèse Coffey (see letsrecycle.com story) and the Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom (see letsrecycle.com story).
Speaking ahead of the report’s publication last month, Environmental Audit Committee chair Mary Creagh told a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) that she had concerns over the status of waste legislation in the UK post-Brexit.
She said: “We have questions about whether the Waste Framework Directive will continue to apply. What we are getting to in all these debates is the complex and messy part about directives. What has been revealed to us in the course of this report is between a quarter and a third of legislation cannot be neatly incorporated.
“That is where we need to focus our attention. What we don’t want to end up with is 40 years of EU law which turns into zombie legislation.”