'Catastrophe' warning over EU environment laws


Campaigners have warned that a weakening of environment laws after Britain leaves the European Union (EU) could be a ‘catastrophe’.

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth are currently taking the UK Government back to court over Britain’s breaches of the EU Air Quality Directive - mainly due to traffic emissions - and warned that this and other environmental rules could be weakened or scrapped. 

ClientEarth CEO James Thornton

An estimated 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are linked to air pollution.

CEO James Thornton said the group had ‘no idea which laws will be retained since those who campaigned for Brexit did not have a united position’.

He said: ‘We will use the months and years ahead to urge the UK Government to live up to the EU laws which are currently on the statute books. Anything which weakens those laws would be a catastrophe for Britain’s environment.’

The group told Transport Network last week that the Air Quality Directive would cease to be part of UK law if Britain left the EU, unless it chose instead to join the European Economic Area, although how quickly it would fall would be a matter of legal argument.

Friends of the Earth said the environment must be ‘at the heart of’ both exit negotiations with Europe and ‘how we plan our future as a country’.

The group warned that many ‘vital’ European environmental protections would cease to apply after Britain’s forthcoming exit from the EU. It said it ‘will be campaigning to make sure that these protections are upheld and not watered down’.

Craig Bennett, the group’s CEO, said: ‘The referendum may be over but many of the difficult debates are only just beginning. We cannot let the UK return to the days of “the dirty man of Europe”. Protections for our birds and wildlife, our beaches and rivers, must not be sacrificed in the name of cutting away so-called EU “red tape”.

'The environment was rarely mentioned during the referendum but it must now move up the political agenda. With urgent issues like climate change, air pollution and destruction of the natural world already impacting this generation, not just the next, we don’t have time for the environment to take a back seat through years of negotiations.’


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