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New Environmental Protection Act needed to avoid ‘zombie’ legislation

MPs have warned the government that a new act will be needed to avoid weakening Britain’s environmental protections during Article 50 negotiations.

04 JAN 2016 | CHRIS SEEKINGS
Preserving and improving environmental laws after Brexit 'critical' ©Shutterstock
Preserving and improving environmental laws after Brexit 'critical' ©Shutterstock


In a report published today, the Environmental Audit Committee argued that plans to copy EU legislation in a ‘Great Repeal Bill’ could risk UK law no longer being updated and could be easily eroded with minimal parliamentary scrutiny.

This ‘zombie’ legislation will need to be avoided in order for the government to fulfil their manifesto commitment to ‘be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it’ according to the report.

It states: “The government should legislate for a new Environmental Protection Act whilst Article 50 negotiations are ongoing to maintain the UK’s environmental standards, which should be in place before we leave the EU.

“Some legislation will be difficult to transpose into UK law, and will require new governance arrangements to be established to avoid ‘zombie’ legislation.

“Government must provide an equivalent or better level of protection, and identify legislation with potential transposition issues sufficiently far in advance of leaving the EU, to ensure proper scrutiny”.

It is estimated that 80% of environmental standards originate from the EU, with around a third of regulations feared to be difficult to transpose into UK law.

This latest report argues that the international, legislative and financial impacts of leaving the EU will all be influenced by the government’s ability to replace this framework of environmental protections.

Issues such as Environmental Impact Assessment, protection of air, and pollution of water are all covered through a wide range of EU environmental legislation affecting the UK, according to the report.

The Wildlife Trusts chief executive, Stephanie Hilborne, said: “This report is good news. It shows that politicians from all parties see the need for positive action for our natural environment as we approach Brexit.

“80% of our environmental laws are tied in with the EU, so preserving and improving them during and after Brexit is critical.”