In case you haven’t heard, the UK is in a political crisis. Parliament has come to a Brexit standstill, and any resolution will be fraught with unrest. Recent polling from the Hansard Society found that public faith in the political system is at a low, with feelings of powerlessness rife.
British environmental politics has not escaped this quagmire. Key pieces of legislation that were once sources of optimism for a green Brexit are frustratingly stuck in unsatisfactory form in their progression through parliament. To salvage her legacy, Theresa May could legislate for the CCC’s net-zero target, but that would require the cabinet consent that she has found so elusive during her tenure. Read more
In her Mansion House speech in March 2017 the prime minister said “As we leave the EU we will uphold environmental standards and go further to protect our shared natural heritage”. But her speech yesterday appears to ignore the government’s commitments to improve and not just maintain standards.
On the face of it the commitment that “there will be no change in the level of environmental protection when we leave the EU” should be reassuring as the government has repeatedly said that standards will not be weakened by Brexit. But no change infers no improvement which, when facing an environmental crisis, seems very wide of the mark. Read more
Legacy is “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see” rapped one of America’s founding fathers on the day of his death, at least according to the musical Hamilton. Thoughts of legacy are likely to start rising up the UK political agenda over the coming weeks as the big question in Westminster becomes who will replace Theresa May? Candidates are already publicly throwing their hats into the ring, with interventions, speeches and candid pictures in kitchens aplenty. Some of these interventions have rightly identified climate and environment issues as vital to the future of the Conservative party. But will Theresa May be remembered for anything other than Brexit? Read more
This post is by Libby Peake, senior policy adviser at Green Alliance, and Ruth Chambers, senior parliamentary associate for Greener UK.
Now the EU has granted a Brexit ‘flextension’ until the end of October, the immediate threat of no deal has subsided. In fact, the government has stood down the ‘army’ of 6,000 civil servants preparing for that contingency. But this wasn’t the only preparation being undertaken: many of the 10,000 other civil servants working on Brexit had been creating the torrent of regulations required to bring European laws into the UK legal framework. This process, comprising 10,091 pages of technical legislation (a quarter of which came from Defra), is now largely complete. So, given the breathing space, it’s timely to take stock of where this process has got to. Read more
This post is by Sarah Denman, an environmental lawyer at ClientEarth
Whilst the Brexit drama plays out in parliament, the leaving process is being managed behind the scenes. As part of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the UK government has had to produce a large number of SIs (or statutory instruments) to convert the existing body of EU law into our domestic statute book and make it fit for purpose. Read more
A cross-party group of MPs has called for the draft Environment Bill to be strengthened. The Environmental Audit Committee’s report follows its inquiry into the draft Environment Bill published in December. The committee doesn’t pull its punches and demands urgent action to plug gaps in environmental protection. Read more
This post is by Hatti Owens, ClientEarth UK environment lawyer
From the UK’s global carbon footprint to the quality of the products we import, trade deals have real world impacts on the environment. How the UK decides its future trade policy outside the protection of the European Union is of real importance.
With some politicians and groups – such as the Institute for Economic Affairs – calling for deregulation, environmentalists might, therefore, take heart from the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, which states that “environmental sustainability should be at the very heart of global production and trade”.
It’s a lovely sentiment, but unfortunately yet to be borne out by reality. Read more
The prime minister’s announcement that she will work with the opposition to try to reach a compromise on Brexit is very welcome. Both sides need to be flexible. And when MPs get to vote again, they must show a greater willingness to compromise.
Brexit means Brexit, but we still do not know what Brexit means. If we are to find out, MPs must stop asking themselves, ‘what is the best outcome from my point of view?’ and ask instead, ‘what outcomes can I live with?’ Look down the list of how MPs voted on Monday and you will see some of the brightest and best from all parties, including some who care deeply about the environment, who made the best the enemy of the not-wholly-unacceptable. And the not-wholly-unacceptable is probably the best most of us can hope for now, given the pickle we are in. Read more
This post is by Donal McCarthy, senior policy officer at the RSPB.
On Monday night, MPs approved a motion providing parliament with the chance to hold a series of indicative votes on alternatives to the current Brexit deal. One of the alternative options that is being promoted by a cross-party grouping of MPs is a ‘Norway-style’ agreement (also known as ‘Norway Plus’ or ‘Common Market 2.0’).
This option would see the UK negotiate a future relationship with the EU similar to that enjoyed by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, the three members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that participate in the EU single market under the terms of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement. But what might this mean for the laws governing species and habitat protection across the UK? Read more
This post is by Libby Peake, senior policy adviser at Green Alliance, and Ruth Chambers, senior parliamentary associate for Greener UK. It was first posted on Business Green.
Hidden amongst the dramatic politics of Brexit, a little noticed but nonetheless highly significant process has been unfolding: the transfer of 12,000 pieces of EU law into our domestic statute book. This has great significance for the environment as 80 per cent of environmental laws come from the EU. While the process is intended to ensure a smooth Brexit through the technical transfer of laws, the pace at which it has been done, as well as the challenge of faithfully replicating European laws at a domestic level, have meant this process has been far from straightforward. Read more