MPs and public in unison over maintaining post-Brexit environmental protection

Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) chair Mary Creagh has supported calls from the public for the Government to ensure that European Union (EU) rules that protect Britain's natural environment "are not lost" during Brexit negotiations.

A new YouGov poll carried out for green campaign group Friends of the Earth (FoE) found that 83% of more than 1,600 respondents wanted new UK laws that provide the same or a higher level of protection than current EU regulation.

The public’s desire for Britain to maintain or strengthen the EU’s environmental commitments is shared by Labour MP Creagh, who this week told edie that the issue should be the Government’s top green policy concern.

“[The top priority] is that environmental protections that come from the EU are not lost in the negotiations to leave the EU,” Creagh said. “We are particularly concerned and wish to seek reassurance about the Government’s plans for the large proportion of UK environmental law that originated from EU level.”

‘Firm commitment’

Creagh has previously declared vocal support for retaining EU environmental policy post-Brexit, claiming that an Europe-wide solution is imperative to tackle green issues that “don’t respect borders”.

According to the YouGov survey, 57% of people think British farming subsidies should put more or the same emphasis on environmental protection than current EU subsidies, while the majority of those who voted to leave the EU were also strongly in favour of maintaining or increasing the protection for nature that is currently provided by EU legislation.

Speaking to edie earlier this week, FoE said that environmental protection should not be sacrificed in the name of cutting away EU “red tape”.

FoE campaigner Elaine Gilligan said: “The next Parliament will have to start focusing on the reality of Britain’s vote to leave the EU. Over 70% of our environmental laws come from Europe and we want to see a firm commitment from MPs that they will continue to uphold EU environment and nature protections, regardless of the outcomes of Brexit.”

Brexit strategy

In the months following the UK’s decision to depart from the EU, politicians and green organisations alike have urged the Government to form a Brexit strategy that provides evidence on how the UK plans to tackle environmental issues such as worsening air quality levels and its “poor quality” water sites

In a letter to the new Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis and new Minister for the Environment Therese Coffey, the EAC has set a September deadline for the pair to reveal how they plan to handle environmental policies during exit negotiations.

Yesterday (24 August), Creagh’s EAC urged the Government to completely ban cosmetic companies from using environmentally harmful plastic microbeads in bathroom products by the end of 2017. Committee chair Creagh told edie that that “the end of the road is coming” for businesses that continue to “hitch a free ride” from compliant companies.

George Ogleby

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