Environmental protections in the UK are likely to be weakened once the post-Brexit transition period comes to an end, green groups have warned.
Greener UK, a coalition of 13 major environmental organisations, has raised concern that enforcement around air pollution targets and chemical regulations could be undermined after the UK diverges from the European Union’s standards as of 31 December.
This could leave all areas of the UK environment, from air and water quality to agriculture and fishing, vulnerable to weaker protections from 2021, according to Greener UK’s latest “risk tracker” analysis.
The government has said it wants to see high environmental standards and regulations in place under UK laws such as the Environment Bill, Agriculture Bill and Fisheries Bill, which are being put in place to replace the former EU legislation.
However, there is still the prospect of US trade deals undercutting animal welfare and environmental standards in imported food, and Greener UK also warns the Fisheries Bill does not mandate sustainable limits for fish stocks.
It was reported earlier this month that the government is set to open British markets to food produced to lower US welfare standards as part of its planned trade deal with Donald Trump.
Downing Street refused to stand by an earlier pledge to keep so-called “chlorinated chicken” off UK shelves, in the first sign of the government folding under pressure from American trade negotiators.
Ministers are reportedly considering letting in products like chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef into British supermarkets, but applying tariffs to them to protect UK-based farmers from competition.
The formation of environmental legislation has meanwhile been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, and the prospect of bowing out of Europe with no deal poses environmental risks including falling standards, more “mackerel wars” and a lack of cooperation on climate change, the coalition said.
Sarah Williams of Greener UK said: “For all the Government’s good intentions, it has still not committed to maintain our existing high standards in either domestic law or trade negotiations.
“Without urgent action, it will be harder to enforce environmental laws in January than it is now.
“Ministers have promised again and again that our environment will not be compromised. From the food on our plates to the products on our shelves, time is running out to prove it.”
A total of 13 major environmental organisations make up Greener UK, including the RSPB, National Trust, Wildlife Trusts and Friends of the Earth.Source: Independent