Photo: George Hodan

Strong UK environmental watchdog needed post-Brexit

December 3rd, 2018

Some of Europe’s leading environmental group have called on the European Commission to push for the creation of a strong environmental watchdog in the UK once it leaves the EU.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, both the UK and the EU have committed to ensuring that the level of environmental protection as provided for by existing “law, regulations, and practices” will not be lowered after the UK leaves the EU.

Importantly, both parties also pledged to build on these commitments in the negotiations on their long-term future relationship in the accompanying Political Declaration.

However, in a meeting with EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier last week, top environmental NGOs including Birdlife Europe and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said that it is critical that the EU pushes for the UK to follow through on its environmental commitments.

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy, BirdLife Europe said that the UK must put in place robust new domestic arrangements for environmental monitoring, reporting, oversight and enforcement to ensure that its commitments are fully complied with in practice.

“Failure by the UK to create a truly effective and independent domestic watchdog for ensuring compliance with environmental standards would lead to an erosion of environmental protections, undermining the achievement of EU and global nature targets,” said Mr Brunner.

Jeremy Wates Secretary General of the EEB said that the Bureau wants to see stronger language linking the level of future UK access to the EU single market to the UK’s alignment with EU laws protecting the environment as they evolve in the future.

“However, the various references to the importance of ensuring a level playing field provide some measure of reassurance that the UK will not be able to gain a competitive advantage by undercutting future EU environmental standards,” he said.

The Environmental Pillar, a network of Irish eNGOs, said that it looks forward to ensuring that environmental commitments are delivered upon in the coming negotiations “for the sake of the economy, communities and the environment on the island of Ireland”.

“Enforcement of any future environmental alignment on the island of Ireland will rely on the UK putting in place an effective and independent body to ensure compliance with environmental standards. Failure to do this could lead to an undermining of regulatory quality, competitive disadvantage and ultimately harm nature,” a statement from the Pillar said.

The UK Parliament and the European Parliament are expected to vote on the proposed Brexit deal in December and January respectively.

By Gosego Moletsane

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