Brexit and the environment: Avoiding deregulatory pressures

The Brexit negotiations enter what should be the final stages at the end of 2018, with an outline agreement on the future relationship. A new IEEP paper sets out what is needed to avoid the risk of environmental standards being lowered for competitive advantage.

At the time of writing, negotiations between the UK and the EU on the UK’s withdrawal agreement, and a political declaration on the future relationship, are entering the final straight. The delay in establishing the UK’s negotiating priorities, EU concerns about the feasibility and the principle of the “Chequers proposal”, and UK worries about the Irish border backstop agreed in December last year, have all meant that the detail of the future relationship has received little attention so far. For environmental stakeholders this is a worry, as a key issue for the negotiations should be how to deal with the risk of competitive deregulation. With downward pressures on UK standards likely to come from potential non-EU trading partners, it is important for the EU to ensure that relatively high European standards will not be undercut by UK goods produced under lower levels of regulation, but with access to the EU market under a free trade agreement.

IEEP has carried out a short piece of work for Greener UK looking at what a deal needs to include to provide guarantees on this point. We argue, in the attached paper, that existing models in free trade agreements (like those between the EU and Canada, or the EU and Korea) will not work for the UK/EU relationship, given both the high level of market integration, and the obviously high current level of regulatory alignment. Instead, the negotiators should agree in principle that non-regression and equivalence rules need to cover:

  • environmental standards themselves;
  • the processes that underpin them, and ensure that they are delivered in practice; and
  • the need for robust enforcement mechanisms both within each party, and bilaterally.

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