Implications of Brexit for UK Environmental Policy and Regulation - a report for APPG

There is an important environmental dimension to any decision by the UK to leave the EU. This paper for the UK All-Party Parliamentary Environment Group (APPG) explores the options that might be pursued outside the EU and considers the potential impact on environmental and climate policy, which could be considerable. The UK response could vary under different scenarios for future relationships with the EU and there is also likely to be greater scope for variations in approach by the four constituent countries within the UK following Brexit.

In environmental terms, and for businesses and investments affected by environmental policy, any form of Brexit would give rise to a significant period of uncertainty and some disruption as new arrangements and relationships were put in place. The UK would cease to have any power to determine EU policy or to participate in international meetings as an EU member, with a potential reduction in global influence on climate change negotiations for example. The CAP and CFP would cease to apply and there would be major implications for funding and environmental management.

If the UK were to negotiate membership of EEA most EU environmental legislation would continue to apply, including measures covering pollution control, chemicals and waste management. Exceptions include the Bathing Water Directive. Some routes to limited participation in the EU policy making debate would exist, but they would fall short of the current direct role in decision making. This would apply to a range of EU initiatives expected in the coming decade, for example on the Circular Economy package and the Ecodesign Directive.

On scenarios where the UK was outside the EEA, most environmental legislation would cease to apply. The main exception would be where companies were seeking to export to the EU, and would be obliged to conform to product standards and other requirements in order to do so. Future governments would be free to weaken environmental regulations if that approach was considered to create a competitive advantage, and the pressure from the EU for standards to be enforced would no longer apply. Changes in the composition of climate policies could be expected, and overall levels of ambition are expected to be lower in Europe in the event of Brexit.

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