Quantcast

Brexit Likely to Weaken UK Eco Rules, Study Finds

Politics
Swans at Fowlmere RSPB reserve in Cambridgeshire, where a chalk stream is one of the UK's rarest habitats. Airwolfhound / Flickr

The UK's vote to leave the EU in June of 2016 is often compared to the U.S. election of Donald Trump as part of a populist, xenophobic reaction against increasing globalization and business-as-usual politics. But is Brexit as much of a danger to the environment as Trump's presidency has turned out to be?


The UK isn't planning to withdraw from the Paris agreement anytime soon, but a March risk analysis commissioned by Friends of the Earth found that environmental protections are likely to weaken in any potential Brexit deal, The Guardian reported Thursday.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield, Queen's University Belfast and the University of East Anglia studied five different trade arrangements and 15 different environmental policies, and found that all posed a "very high risk" to birds and habitats, according to The Guardian.

Overall, a model that resembles Norway's close relationship to the EU was the best for the environment, and a "chaotic no deal" model that represents a total separation was the worst.

Every model except the Norwegian model would pose high risk or very high risk to water frameworks, urban wastewater, ground water, nitrates, climate and energy, ambient air quality, agri-environment, food and welfare standards, and fisheries and marine protection.

Air quality has in particular emerged as a major public health focus in the UK, as a parliamentary joint-inquiry in March called air pollution in the country "a national health emergency."

The study calls into question assurances from the UK government that Brexit would be "green."

In an opinion piece for Politico cited by The Guardian, the UK environmental secretary Michael Gove called Brexit "a chance to take back control of our environment." He held up a 25-year environment plan launched by UK Prime Minister Theresa May in January that "shows the way to Green Brexit and beyond."

But the risk analysis found the plan low on detail, and the details it did provide less ambitious than current EU law.

"The 25-year plan was depressing and concerning," analysis author and Sheffield University professor Charlotte Burns told The Guardian. "If the government is not tied down to strict standards, we will see waning investment in the environment and less capacity for NGOs to challenge what they do in the courts."

According to the executive summary of the analysis, Brexit could also weaken EU environmental policy, since the UK had lobbied for more aggressive climate change action and more eco-friendly agricultural practices.

To avoid backsliding, the summary recommended that the UK and EU write environmental regulations, such as an "environmental non-regression clause" into any new trade deals.

"We were promised that Brexit wouldn't harm our environment—but this analysis shows that under all scenarios currently on the table, this promise will be broken," Friends of the Earth's Kierra Box told The Guardian. "We hope this report will spur parliament to make much needed changes to the withdrawal bill currently in the process of going through parliament, to lock in guarantees for our environment that the report authors have found lacking so far," she said

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Cigarette butt litter. Tavallai / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Dipika Kadaba

We've known for more than 50 years that smoking cigarettes comes with health hazards, but it turns out those discarded butts are harmful for the environment, too. Filtered cigarette butts, although small, contain dozens of chemicals, including arsenic and benzene. These toxins can leach into the ground or water, creating a potentially deadly situation for nearby birds, fish and other wildlife.

Read More Show Less
Thanasis Zovoilis / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Infants less than a year old should not be exposed to electronic screens, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

By Wenonah Hauter

Five years ago this week, an emergency manager appointed by then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder made the devastating decision to save money by switching Flint's water supply over from Detroit's water system to the Flint River. Seen as a temporary fix, the new water supply was not properly treated. High levels of lead leached from the old pipes, poisoning a generation of Flint's children, and bacteria responsible for an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease killed more than a dozen residents.

Read More Show Less
Los Angeles-Long Beach, California is listed as the nation's smoggiest city. Pixabay

Seven million more Americans lived in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution between 2015 and 2017 than between 2014 and 2016, and climate change is partly to blame, Time reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
Kissing bug. Pavel Kirillov / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the kissing bug, which can transmit a potentially deadly parasite, has spread to Delaware, ABC News reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
"Take the pledge today." Screenshot / StopFoodWasteDay.com

Did you know that more than a third of food is wasted or thrown away every year? And that only 25 percent of it would be enough to feed the 795 million undernourished people in the world? That's why today is Stop Food Waste Day, a chance to reflect on what you can do to waste less of the food you buy.

Stop Food Waste Day is an initiative of food service company Compass Group. It was launched first in the U.S, in 2017 and went global the year after, making today it's second worldwide celebration.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Berries are among the healthiest foods you can eat.

Read More Show Less
Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15 in Paris, France. Veronique de Viguerie / Getty Images

When Paris's Notre Dame caught fire on April 15, the flames threatened more than eight centuries of culture and history. The fire evoked shock, horror and grief worldwide. While the cathedral burned, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed determination to rebuild what the French regard as a sacred site.

Read More Show Less