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Committee raises concerns over upholding environmental law after Brexit

28 February 2019

The EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee have written to the Secretary of State on their concerns over the proposed Office of Environmental Protection.

Background

In 2017, the Committee published a report – Brexit: environment and climate change – which highlighted the important role of the European Commission and Court of Justice of the European Union in ensuring Member States comply with environmental legislation. It recommended the establishment of an independent, domestic enforcement mechanism to fill the gap when the UK leaves the EU, with the ability (as EU institutions do) to sanction Government non-compliance through the courts.

This proposal was not supported by Government at the time, but in December 2018 the Government published proposals for an Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) as part of the draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill.

On 6 February, the Committee held a roundtable with environment experts to discuss the proposals and has now written to Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with their findings and recommendations.

Key findings

Independence

  • The Committee raises concerns that the OEP's members and budget will be determined by the Secretary of State and recommends that Parliament be given a greater role.

Remit

  • The Committee calls for climate change to be included in the OEP's remit (it is currently explicitly excluded) and asks questions about how the Secretary of State is working with the devolved administrations to ensure environmental protection is upheld in all four nations of the UK.

Powers

  • After hearing concerns from witnesses that the OEP's powers would not mirror those of EU institutions, the Committee emphasise the need for enforcement powers to be at least as strong after Brexit as beforehand. 

Timing

  • With the possibility of a 'no deal' Brexit in a few weeks' time, the OEP may not be in place when the UK leaves the EU. The Committee, therefore, calls for interim measures to be put in place to maintain at least some level of environmental protection.

Further information

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