October 6th, 2017
The European Parliament passed a motion this week calling for the safeguarding of Irish cross-border cooperation schemes after Brexit, including environmental issues.
The motion passed on Tuesday states that the UK’s withdrawal agreement must be “fully consistent” with the Good Friday Agreement and the six areas of cooperation agreed under it, one of which concerns the environment.
Over 650 pieces of EU legislation currently form the basis of environmental protection in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Parliament’s motion stresses the importance of maintaining these common protections across the island in the wake of Brexit.
Michel Barnier, European Chief Negotiator for Brexit, said that both the EU and the UK recognise that Ireland is in “a unique situation” and that any solution must reflect “the particular circumstances on the island”.
“It is particularly important to ensure the concrete modalities of continuing the numerous North-South cooperation schemes” of the Good Friday Agreement, he said.
This development is good news for Irish environmental groups and NGOs, who voiced concerns in recent months about Brexit’s potential to weaken legislative protection for the environment.
The Environmental Pillar, Ireland’s leading environmental coalition, last week said that the government is failing to protect Ireland’s natural heritage from the “imminent threats” posed by Brexit and climate change.
Speaking at the annual Environment Ireland conference, Pillar coordinator, Michael Ewing, said that Ireland must lobby for strong environmental protection in ongoing Brexit negotiations.
Representatives from the Environmental Pillar and Northern Ireland Environmental Link met with high-level European representatives in Brussels last month to voice concerns over the impact Brexit may have on cross-border cooperation in environmental protection and addressing climate change.
The groups stressed that the island of Ireland and its surrounding waters must be considered a single biogeographic unit and that common standard of environmental protection must exist across the island.
In July, a report from the Seanad Special Select Committee on Brexit concluded that environmental standards must remain aligned across the island of Ireland post-Brexit and urged government action to ensure this.
The report followed a conference on Brexit and the Irish environment in June, where MEPs, NGOs and experts called for environmental standards to be upheld after the UK leaves Europe.