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BREXIT AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Apart from a passing mention in connection with the Agriculture Bill, the environment did not feature in the June 2017 Queen’s Speech. The assumption therefore is that most of the core EU environmental legislation, some 200 main pieces of legislation, will fall to be re-enacted under the Repeal Bill / European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and reviewed at a later date. One key concern identified by many commentators is how this environmental law will be effectively enforced once the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union is removed. Recent caselaw on key areas such as air pollution has been driven by CJEU rulings that the UK was not in compliance with EU environmental laws.

 In a new report on Brexit and the Environment (Paper 22), the Bar Council’s Brexit Working Group has urged the Government to take the following steps:

* Commit to long-term stability of environmental policy through creation of enforceable domestic commitments and an independent domestic enforcement mechanism, underpinned by the judiciary, to replace the effective system of independent supervision and enforcement at EU level that will no longer apply after Brexit

* Maintain environmental standards and consistency of environmental policy and legislation by ensuring consistency with EU environmental standards, unless objective scientific reasons exist to depart from such standards, and recognising the need to avoid negative impacts on environmental protection in future trade agreements, and

* Agree to re-create in new treaty provisions the cross-border environmental obligations currently linking the UK and the EU27.

Enforcement of environmental law is likely to be of critical importance in the debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. This is of key concern to the effectiveness of environmental laws themselves, and also a major issue in negotiations on future trade arrangements.