EU Referendum results: Red alert for the green economy as Britain votes to LEAVE the EU

BREAKING: Britain will no longer continue the fight against climate change as part of the European Union (EU), with the EU Referendum delivering shock win for the Leave campaign in what is seen as a significant blow to our environment and the green economy.

After more than 20 years of campaigning for this result, UKIP Leader Nigel Farage has triumphantly proclaimed that the 52% to 48% vote in favour of Leaving the EU should see 23 June go down in history as the UK’s “Independence Day”.

EU Referendum: As it happened (the green business perspective)

But Britain’s sustainability and environment sectors are now left coming to terms with exactly what this means for the future, as many vital European environmental protections will now cease to apply here.

The cleanliness of Britain’s beaches will no longer be regulated at a European level, our air quality standards may not be as stringent, our bees will no longer be protected by EU laws against harmful pesticides, and ambitious EU Directives will cease pushing the nation towards a low-carbon, resource efficient economy due to the outcome of this vote.

Crucially, Britain will also no longer continue to take on the existential, global challenge of climate change as a key player within the EU, with this morning’s result sparking fears that the historic Paris Agreement will now have to be re-written and that the UK will not be as internationally ambitious on sustainability and the environment than if we’d have remained within the bloc.

‘Difficult debates’

With the Remain and Leave campaigns neck-and-neck going into the polls, Britain was on tenterhooks until early hours of Friday (24 June), when the highly-anticipated final results were announced.

The Referendum turnout was 71.8% – the highest turnout at a UK election since 1992 – and by around 6am, it had been confirmed that the UK had voted by 52% to 48% to leave the European Union after 43 years. London and Scotland voted strongly to stay in the EU, but Wales and the majority of England outside of London voted in large numbers for Brexit.

The value of the pound quickly slumped to a 31-year low on currency markets and is now on course for its biggest one-day loss in history as investors are clearly panicked by the prospect of this vote to leave the European Union.

Commenting on the results, Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett said: “The referendum may be over but many of the difficult debates are only just beginning. 

“The environment must be at the heart of our negotiations with Europe and how we create a positive future for our country. We cannot let the UK return to the days of ‘the dirty man of Europe’. Protections for our birds and wildlife, our beaches and rivers, must not be sacrificed in the name of cutting away so-called EU ‘red tape’.  

“The environment was rarely mentioned during the referendum but it must now move up the political agenda. With urgent issues like climate change, air pollution and destruction of the natural world already impacting this generation, not just the next, we don’t have time for the environment to take a back seat through years of negotiations.” 

The EU Referendum results come as a disappointment to the edie team (you can listen to us discussing the environmental benefits of the EU in our latest podcast), along with the vast majority of sustainability and CSR professionals. An edie readers’ poll conducted in the weeks building up to Referendum day showed that 75% of respondents were sitting firmly within the ‘Remain’ camp.

“This result raises serious questions for investor certainty, energy security and much needed investment in the UK energy infrastructure,” said Renewable Energy Association (REA) chief executive Nina Skorupska.

“The vast majority of our members had fears of Brexit, and we will be consulting with them and government in the coming weeks to set out a plan for continued low carbon energy investment, deployment and assurance of the 117,000 jobs in this sector.”

And the long list of environmental professionals, green groups, political figureheads and green business leaders who were against Brexit for environmental reasons doesn’t stop there. Earlier in the week, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett and former Energy Secretary Sir Ed Davey had told edie that exiting the EU would have caused yet more uncertainty for Britain’s energy and environment policy, which has already fallen into a state of “disaster” after a series of “dreadful” decisions from the Conservative Government.

The majority of UK energy and climate ministers had also taken a pro-EU stance, with Energy Secretary Rudd, Energy Ministers Matthew Hancock and Lord Nick Bourne, Environment Secretary Liz Truss and Environment Minister Rory Stewart all calling for the UK to remain an EU Member State. Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom and Minister for Food, Farming and the Marine Environment George Eustice were among the Tory ministers that had declared their support for leaving the bloc.

Your view: Are you pleased with the EU Referendum result?

Luke Nicholls

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie