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The UK's departure from the EU is resulting in the deterioration of crucial environmental safeguards.
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The UK’s departure from the EU is resulting in the deterioration of crucial environmental safeguards.

According to a thorough investigation by the Guardian, crucial safeguards for the environment and human well-being are being dismantled due to changes in laws after Brexit.

The United Kingdom is lagging behind the European Union in nearly all aspects of environmental regulation, as the EU strengthens its laws while the UK weakens them. In certain instances, government officials are completely eliminating environmental safeguards that were originally derived from the EU.

Companies and environmental organizations have informed the Guardian that they have not been kept informed about the level of setbacks, as there is no governmental entity monitoring the differences between the EU and UK.

In real-life situations, it implies:

  • The water quality in the UK will be lower compared to that in the EU.

  • The amount of pesticides in British soil will increase.

  • Businesses are permitted to manufacture goods that contain chemicals that have been prohibited by the EU due to safety concerns.

At least seven major policies have been altered, creating a divide between the EU and the UK in terms of environmental regulations. These changes include:

  • Environmental regulations regarding air pollution that will be eliminated by the retained EU law bill.

  • Numerous substances that have been prohibited in the EU can still be utilized in the UK.

  • The UK has not prohibited 36 pesticides that are banned in the EU.

  • The UK is not keeping pace with carbon emission reduction efforts, while the EU is implementing carbon pricing.

  • The European Union is providing assistance to individuals who are facing difficulties in covering the expenses of transitioning to greener practices, while the United Kingdom is not offering such support.

  • The EU is enforcing more stringent rules regarding the recycling of batteries, whereas the UK is not.

  • The EU is taking steps to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain, while the UK’s plan is less strict and won’t be implemented until a year later.

A member of the Green party expressed their sadness at the results, while a representative from the center-right party stated that the differences were especially detrimental for businesses looking to operate on both sides of the English Channel.

Greek member of the European Parliament, Petros Kokkalis, expressed concern about the UK’s deviation from the EU’s approach. He also pointed out the potential negative impact on citizens and their health.

Approximately 85% of the environmental safeguards in the UK originate from the EU. Despite assurances from Brexit leaders like Michael Gove and Boris Johnson that post-EU departure, environmental protections would be enhanced, an examination by the Guardian reveals the opposite to be true.

The Guardian examined information from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), which has been monitoring changes in environmental legislation since the UK’s departure from the EU. This is the first time that the true extent of the weakening of laws can be revealed.

There are 10 additional policy areas currently undergoing changes in the EU, while remaining unchanged or becoming less strict in the UK. These include addressing sewage pollution in rivers and seas, protecting habitats of endangered animals, reducing food waste, managing electronic waste, addressing fast fashion, controlling “forever chemicals”, banning ozone-depleting substances, regulating the extraction of rare minerals, monitoring dangerous particulate pollution, and decreasing emissions from intensive farming.

Cloudy brown water in the sea at the bottom of cliffs in Seaford, England

Michael Nicholson, the UK’s environmental policy leader at IEEP UK, stated that there is a subtle shift away from EU environmental regulations in the UK, particularly in England. He observes a growing pattern of the EU enhancing their environmental laws while the UK does not follow suit. This could potentially result in regression in certain areas.

This regression is concerning because it not only has the potential to decrease current levels of environmental protection, but also goes against the specific legal commitment made by multiple ministers in our trade and cooperation agreement with the EU, stating that the UK would uphold high standards and not backtrack after Brexit.

In Northern Ireland, the situation is particularly intricate due to the protocol requiring the retention of certain EU-based environmental legislation. While this offers increased safeguard against chemical contamination and ecological harm, the varying regulatory standards between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK have significant effects on trade and politics.

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According to experts in the field, companies are concerned about their ability to sell to their primary market as the differences between the UK and EU continue to widen. This could potentially prevent food and other goods that are imported into the UK from being exported into the EU due to the divergence in regulations. The issue at hand is that certain chemicals that are permitted in the UK are prohibited by the EU. As a result, the agricultural industry has reported that shipments are already being rejected by European officials because they contain banned substances. Additionally, businesses claim that the government has not informed them of these legal changes, causing further complications.

According to Ed Barker, the leader of communications for the Agricultural Industries Confederation, member organizations are facing challenges due to the lack of clarity surrounding issues arising from EU environmental legislation.

He stated that they have been requesting the government to track and monitor EU divergence. This information is crucial for Great Britain to understand how to conduct trade with Northern Ireland and the EU.

European Union politicians have expressed their worries about the potential impact on trade. In the United Kingdom, the Labour party’s shadow secretary for the environment, Steve Reed, stated that if his party were to win the upcoming general election, the UK would not lower its standards below those set by the EU.

He stated that the government had promised to give people the option to adjust standards in order to improve them. However, he observed that there were numerous instances where standards had actually been lowered, contrary to their promise. He also expressed understanding for the concept of dynamic alignment, which would result in the UK’s environmental regulations aligning with those of the EU automatically, but with the ability for the UK to deviate from them if desired.

The government stood by its strategy. According to Steve Barclay, the environment secretary, Brexit allows for greater flexibility. He also stated that there are more trade representatives and they are securing more trade agreements. He mentioned alterations to the EU’s common agricultural policy, which compensates farmers for preserving the environment in England, will allow for the creation of initiatives that benefit both nature and the farming industry.

A representative from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stated: “We are committed to improving the UK’s already strong standards for environmental protection. Our standards have always been independent of EU membership.”

We have developed a comprehensive plan to protect our environment and address issues such as air and water pollution, as well as biodiversity loss. This includes enacting new targets that are legally binding under the Environment Act and implementing an environmental improvement plan. Contrary to the belief that the UK is lagging behind the EU in environmental legislation, many of our policies actually meet or exceed EU standards.

Source: theguardian.com