The publication of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (aka the Repeal Bill) today was the first real test of what leaving the EU will mean for the future of environmental protection in the UK.  

While we are still digesting the implications of the proposed legislation, on first reading our conclusion is that, as currently drafted, it is inadequate.  

If the UK Government’s wants to be a world leader in environmental protection it will have to match or bolster the safeguards provided by the existing European legislative and governance framework, which has been responsible for recovering some of our most threatened species, protecting our most important wildlife sites, keeping our beaches free of sewage and cleaning up our water and air.

As I explained yesterday, the Repeal Bill needs to...

...transfer environmental legislation into domestic law with the necessary support and infrastructure needed to implement the intent, scope and ambition of the laws

...set out in law key environmental principles such as ‘polluter pays’ .

...ensure there are strong enough enforcement powers so punishments can be handed out to anyone who damages our environment

...prevent changes to the intent or scope of EU laws without full parliamentary scrutiny.

Unfortunately the Repeal Bill fails to...

...provide any certainty as to how important environmental standards and principles will be upheld.  Instead an environmental factsheet accompanying the Bill reiterates the government’s position that future enforcement of environmental protections will be done by judicial review and parliament.  As I wrote last week, this is considerably weaker than the current powers exercised by the European Court of Justice.

...guarantee that key environmental principles will be transferred to domestic legislation

...provide certainty that future changes to 'banked' EU environmental laws will be subjected to full parliamentary scrutiny

Engineering our removal from the EU was always going to be complex, but that is no justification for failing to at least match existing levels of environmental protection.  

Over the next few days, we shall work hard with our colleagues in the Greener UK coalition to develop a more comprehensive analysis.  We shall then make the case for changes and work with those politicians prepared to use their voices for nature to amend the bill as it passes through the Houses of Parliament.

It was what our members would want and what nature needs.