Comment: Mind the gap!

25 June 2017, Comments Comments Off on Comment: Mind the gap!

michael gove - 1

Theresa May’s team are ready to promote a new Government – but are they ready to protect the earth?

With Michael Gove (pictured) as new Secretary of State for the Environment, the Government must now negotiate the UK’s separation from the EU – including how we protect our environment. Nature could fall through the gap. Nature-loving people should act – urgently.

QUEEN’S SPEECH

A centrepiece of the Queen’s Speech setting out the new Government’s legislative programme, was the so-called Great Repeal Bill. Despite its name, this is about translating EU law into UK law – not abolishing it. As our most significant environmental safeguards come from EU law – such as the ‘Birds Directive’ and ‘Habitats Directive’ – that should be a big relief.

Unfortunately, things behind the scenes are not as reassuring. There’s nothing to prevent a government subsequently trying to weaken or abolish the translated legislation.

Moreover, the Government proposes to tweak laws during translation – for ‘technical reasons’– such as when they refer to EU bodies which the UK will no longer have to obey. While that sounds logical enough, these ‘technical’ decisions involve critical judgements. For example, which UK body will replace the EU one? Will it have similar authority, powers and resources to enforce laws? Unless the answer is ‘yes, yes and yes’, our environment will inevitably suffer.

BRITAIN’S NATURE

The Queen’s Speech also proposed Bills on Agriculture and Fisheries, both currently governed by EU policy. This is an important opportunity to improve the UK’s ravaged land and marine environment. But there’s also a risk that the short-term commercial interest or the Government’s ideological reluctance to regulate on the environment, will over-ride long-term sustainability and the opportunity to restore Britain’s nature.

As the new Parliament gets underway with the most far-reaching legislative programme in decades, now is a critical moment to write to our elected representatives. Let’s seek assurances that UK environmental protections will be as strong or stronger, post Brexit, than they are now. Find out who your MP is and how to contact them here. (Photo: Department for Education/Wikimedia Commons)

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