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MPs warn of gap in environmental protections after Brexit

PUBLISHED: 09:32 06 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:06 06 November 2018

Flooded grazing meadows in the Wensum valley. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Flooded grazing meadows in the Wensum valley. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2016

A Westminster committee has warned over a gap in environmental protections after Britain leaves the EU.

Mary Creagh, who chairs the government’s Environmental Audit Committee, said she was “deeply” worried there would be a hole in laws covering chemicals, waste, water and air.

The government’s response to the committee’s recommendations, published today, still leaves one third of the current EU legislation not replicated in the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Ms Creagh said: “It is deeply worrying that the response does not commit to replace the one third of EU environmental legislation that cannot be copied and pasted into UK law after Brexit.

“It should set five-yearly wildlife budgets, so people can see taxpayers’ money being spent on public goods like flood prevention, protecting species from extinction and restoring our soils.”

Ms Creagh also warned the response did not appear to be creating a watchdog with teeth, as there was no confirmation on whether the regulator would hold all public bodies to account, whether climate change would be in its remit or how it would exact enforcement.

She said: “The government’s woolly response makes no firm commitments on the future governance of the environment after Brexit, which is of great concern, given that the Agriculture Bill is making its way through Parliament.

“If we want a world-leading environment, we need a strong, independent environmental watchdog which ministers cannot quietly put to sleep.

“The government’s draft Bill must make the new watchdog accountable to Parliament.”

The committee’s original report on Defra’s 25-year plan for the environment had urged the government not to allow Brexit to weaken environmental protections.

Ms Creagh said the committee would be closely monitoring the details in the proposed draft legislation and forthcoming policy statement.

A Defra spokesman said “significant steps” had already been taken to improve the environment.

She said: “Our 25 year environment plan sets out in detail how we will improve our environment for the next generation, and we have already taken significant steps to deliver this pledge.

“We are bringing forward the first Environment Bill in more than 20 years, have consulted on a new world-leading body to hold government to account on environmental standards and will publish draft legislation shortly.”

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