Brexit’s Environmental Impact – The Die Is Cast
It has been little under two months since the ‘leave vote’ was cast by the British people to remove the UK from the European Union (EU) and the single market. Serious questions and considerations are being posed by legal and environmental commentators as to what effect this will have on the legal landscape the UK now finds itself in.
In terms of environmental protection, the EU made substantial progress by legislating for numerous directives and regulations most of which has been incorporated into UK domestic law. However after the leave vote in Brexit, there is the very real risk of this abundance of environmental legislation being repealed and the other EU directives not incorporated ceasing to have any legal force in the UK.
What Areas Will Be Affected?
- Air Pollution
- Agriculture and the Countryside
- Birds, Habitat and Water
- Climate Change
- Sustainable Fishing
The big two hard hitting directives that the UK looks certain to lose are the ‘Birds Directive’ and the ‘Habitats Directive’, both currently form the bedrock on which UK environmental law is based upon. The Birds Directive is enshrined in the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. The Act covers offences ranging from intentionally or recklessly killing wild birds, other animals and plants; interfering with, damaging or destroying any nest; to specific safeguards for listed protected species.
The Habitats Directive translated into domestic law via the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 provides for the conservation of wild fauna and flora, expressly protecting listed species of animal and plants at all stages of the life of the animal and biological cycle of the plant.
Further UK legislation has been implemented by the UK as a result of the Habitats and Birds Directives. The Offshore Marine Regulations 2007 implemented the directives species protection requirements in relation to the offshore marine area, offshore marine installations and certain ships and crafts. The 2007 regulations afford protection to certain marine species found beyond 12 nautical miles from the Scottish coastline and propose a regulatory responsibility to Companies operating in the Oil and Gas, and Marine sectors.
The dependency of domestic legislation on European jurisprudence is extensive and in the wake of Brexit comes uncertainty as to how the UK will proceed in the coming months and years. After the lengthy article 50 exit process is finalised and the UK has legally separated all ties to the EU, environmental issues from establishing our carbon targets or fishing quota levels, to the protection of our wildlife and waterways are priorities that must be addressed and preserved in law. But the die is cast, we now cross the Rubicon and into unknown environmental territory and the UK will need to act fast and definitively to ensure ongoing and seamless enforcement and protection. Environmental protection in the 21st century is a responsibility, not a worthy opportunity.
Contact MacRoberts LLP for advice on Brexit
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