A Catholic MP is leading calls on the Government to bring forward new laws to ensure environmental protections are not weakened by Brexit.
The Environmental Audit Committee wants ministers to introduce a new Environmental Protection Act to guard against the impact the UK’s divorce from Brussels could have on the nation’s wildlife and natural habitats.
“Changes from Brexit could put our countryside, farming and wildlife at risk,” said committee chairwoman Mary Creagh.
“Protections for Britain’s wildlife and special places currently guaranteed under European law could end up as ‘zombie legislation’ even with the Great Repeal Bill.
“The Government should safeguard protections for Britain’s wildlife and special places in a new Environmental Protection Act.
“UK farming faces significant risks – from a loss of subsidies and tariffs on farm exports, to increased competition from countries with weaker food, animal welfare and environmental standards.
“The Government must not trade away these key protections as we leave the EU. It should also give clarity over any future farm subsidies.”
A new report by the committee examining what Brexit could mean for the UK’s natural environment suggests that protections for wildlife and habitats could be adversely affected by the UK leaving the EU if the Government does not take action before or in the early stages of the Article 50 process.
The Government has set out plans for a ‘Great Repeal Bill’ which would transpose EU law into UK law.
But the committee’s report suggests simply copying EU law will not be sufficient in some areas and could lead to so-called ‘zombie legislation’ which may no longer be updated while questions could arise over who is responsible for enforcement.
It suggests a new Environmental Protection Act should be passed before Brexit is formalised while the Government should set out how it will provide equivalent or better protection for the environment once the UK has left the bloc.
Picture: Sheep graze on the ancient Somerset site of Burrow Mump. (Ben Birchall/PA).