Environmental implications of Brexit Bills announced in the Queen's Speech

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I’ve been the RSPB’s Conservation Director since May 2011. As I settle into the job, I’ll be blogging on all the big conservation topics and providing an inside view of our conservation projects. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel inspired to join in t

Environmental implications of Brexit Bills announced in the Queen's Speech

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It was no surprise that Brexit dominated the Queen's Speech. Following the UK vote to leave the EU and the Government decision to leave the Single Market, work to "unravel 43 years of patiently-built relations" (as Michel Barnier described it this week) was always going to take a lot of parliamentary time and energy.

The Repeal Bill will come first and will be the principle way in which the whole body of EU law (including 650 laws which relate to the environment) will be 'saved' in domestic legislation.  

This will be followed by seven other Brexit-inspried laws with two affecting 70% of UK land and much of our marine environment - the Agriculture and Fisheries Bills.

As always, each headline is accompanied by a paragraph describing the scope of the legislation and while we don't know yet the full content of the bills, these descriptions give some clues about what to expect.

The Repeal Bill we are told, will "repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and convert EU law into UK law as we leave the EU; create temporary powers for Parliament to make secondary legislation, enabling corrections to be made to the laws that do not operate appropriately once we have left the EU; it will also allow changes to be made to domestic law to reflect the content of any withdrawal agreement under Article 50; replicate the common UK frameworks created by EU law in UK law, and maintain the scope of devolved decision-making powers immediately after exit. This will be a transitional arrangement to provide certainty after exit and allow intensive discussion and consultation with the devolved administrations on where lasting common frameworks are needed."  

Through Greener UK, we shall be tracking this very closely to ensure that existing levels of environmental protection and enforcement currently afforded by EU laws are maintained or bolstered.  We have produced a briefing outlining our concerns - including to prevent subsequent changes to environmental law without full parliamentary scrutiny - and you can read this here.   

The Agriculture Bill highlights the twin goals of "providing stability to farmers as we leave the EU" and "protecting our precious natural environment for future generations".  Clearly, repatriating agriculture policy offers the first opportunity for more than four decades to fundamentally reform farming so that it works for people and wildlife.  It is also a great opportunity to make better use of the £3.1 billion of tax payers money that currently supports farming so that we benefit from well managed land: abundant nature, clean water, resilience to flooding and climate change alongside high quality food.

The line on the Fisheries Bill is less clear.  But, we need the Fisheries Bill to be similarly ambitious and to mirror the vision for land and provide measures that improve protection and management of the marine environment.

Again, through Greener UK we have already set out our stall on future of agriculture (here) and fisheries (here).

We are geared up to influence the new parliamentary agenda but we also need politicians to find the time to think about other positive interventions required to restore nature at home and abroad.  The 2020 deadline by which we are meant to have halted the loss of biodiversity is just round the corner...

What do you think about theBrexit Bills in the Queen's Speech?

It would be great to hear your views.

 

 

 

 

*Image shows arable margin at RSPB Hope Farm, Cambridgeshire (Andy Hay, rspb-images.com)

Comments
  • Indeed - Vanellus - that is our major concern as well.  We shall be looking for reassurances on this point and amendments as necessary.

  • I don't like the sentence "create temporary powers for Parliament to make secondary legislation, enabling corrections to be made to the laws that do not operate appropriately once we have left the EU". This surely allows the executive to change at will anything they disagree with.

  • The simple answer to your question is - not a lot ! The only positive, if you can call it that, is that the Conservative's wings have clearly been clipped as far as dumping environmental protection goes, but what I'm still trying to work out is where is the upside in all this ? It was never clear and is getting murkier by the day - as far as I can work out the pro Brexit politicians dream is a low rent, low tax zero public services Britain where the rich do well at the expense of everyone else and the environment.

  • Just glad the RSPB are on the case.