The chair of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Commitee, Mary Creagh, has expressed concern that environmental legislation could be undermined if the UK is to exit the EU.
Speaking at a panel session at the waste industry show RWM in Birmingham last week (15 September), Mrs Creagh warned that environmental regulations could be among the ‘most affected’ areas of law impacted by Brexit.
The Labour MP for Wakefield, who is leading an inquiry into environmental policy in light of the EU Referendum, claimed that verbal evidence from ministers given to the inquiry earlier this month (see AirQualityNews.com story) had made it ‘clear’ that government had yet to formulate a strategy for the environment.
She said: “The government doesn’t have much of a strategy for Brexit, I think that is clear. We have started our own inquiry into what policy and strategy needs to be around that, and I am slightly concerned that they might treat that inquiry as a way of not doing the work.
“I don’t think there are other areas that will be more affected by the Referendum result than the environment. 80% of our national regulations and legislation on the environment comes from the European Union. We’ve heard that the negotiations are going to be complex, they are going to be long and they are going to be difficult.
“We heard last week from ministers from Defra and the new Department for Exiting the EU, and the message I took from our evidence session is that there is no process, they can’t say if they are going to repeal the European Communities Act, and then reverse engineer back in the stuff they want.â€?
Mrs Creagh added that many of the targets and requirements for existing UK is driven by EU Directives. This includes the Air Quality Directive, under which Member States are tasked with reducing air pollution emissions in urban areas. This has formed the basis for legal action against the UK government by legal firm ClientEarth.
However, Mrs Creagh claimed that without the obligation to meet the targets set out in these Directives – the UK would in effect have ‘zombie legislation’ with no potential legal recourse from Europe if targets are not met.
She added: “And of course, in terms of targets and legal action, if we do not have the European Court of Justice to give weight to British legislation as it is enacted, we have zombie legislation, so we’ll end up with no judicial means of enacting EU laws unless we have new British Acts. I think this is quite a big worry. Everything hinges on the government’s approach.â€?