This blog was first posted on Business Green.
The new government’s energy is devoted either to preparing for – even willing on – a disastrous no deal Brexit or to election planning. It has little left for environmental ambition and its record compares badly with that of Theresa May’s government in the weeks following the 2017 election. Ministers have been relatively silent and inaccessible. They are not responsible for the fact that key Bills have stalled, but they have given little indication that they will fight to secure major improvements to environment and farming policy. Read more
A month into the new government and the prospects for the environment look increasingly grim.
It is not just that a no deal Brexit now seems probable, though that is bad enough. Crashing out of the EU carries great dangers for air pollution and loss of countryside as lorries queue around our major ports. Its impact on farming could be devastating. Read more
In what could be his last days as environment secretary, Michael Gove has delivered an agenda setting speech in which he lamented the catastrophic loss of biodiversity across the globe and at home, highlighting that the UK is now one of the most nature-depleted nations in the world. He drew attention to the many other environmental threats we face, including the scourge of plastic pollution, toxic air and threats to water quality. Michael Gove’s self-confessed conversion from ‘shy green’ to ‘full-throated environmentalist’ is now complete. Read more
When did Brexit become a ‘thing’, an end in itself? During the 2016 referendum campaign, Brexiteers promised a bright future for the UK outside the EU. Now, that promise has largely dwindled to delivering Brexit and fulfilling the “will of the people”, regardless of any consequences. It is as if Brexit has become a medicine we must take, even if it half kills the patient. 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
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
All the way through the Brexit process, Defra secretary Michael Gove has sought to assure us that leaving the EU will mean a strengthening, not a weakening, of environmental standards.
In some areas, he and his department are on the right path. Read more
This post is written by Martin Harper, global conservation director at RSPB. It was first posted on his blog.
Following the comprehensive rejection this week of the prime minister’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement by the UK parliament, and without stronger assurances which would avoid a disorderly Brexit, the risk of leaving the European Union on 29 March without a deal remains.
As politicians scrabble around to work out what happens next, I want to outline why the RSPB, and many other environmental NGOs, believe that ‘no deal’ would be such bad news for the nature. Read more
Could the UK leave the European Union in March next year without a deal? For all the talk of ‘no deal being better than a bad deal’, the suggestion seems absurd. No deal would be a disaster for both sides in the negotiations. Britain would crash out of the EU without a transition period, plunging the whole continent into recession. Surely no rational government would go there? Surely sensible people will agree, in the end, to do sensible things, and there will be some great, last minute Euro-compromise?
Well, maybe. But governments do not always behave rationally. Read more
Should we worry that the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal and in an atmosphere of acrimony and ill will? That was the question I recently asked Sir Ivan Rogers at his inaugural Henry Plumb Lecture for the National Farmers’ Union. His answer was not reassuring. The risk, he said, was “still quite high”. In January, Sir Ivan was forced to resign as the UK’s permanent representative to the EU for his unwelcome prediction that the Brexit negotiations would prove much more difficult than most people thought. His concerns have been vindicated and he is worth listening to. Read more