IEEP report on risks and opportunities of Brexit outcomes: “no deal” outcome poses the worst threats

IEEP’s Martin Nesbit and David Baldock were commissioned by UK environmental NGOs to look at the potential impact of different Brexit outcomes on environmental policy and outcomes. Their report first identifies the main short-term options – including the existing Withdrawal Agreement, and the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal – and then the main options for the UK’s longer-term relationship with the EU. It goes on to consider the impact of each on environmental issues, using the benchmarks set by the Greener UK coalition.

The key findings are that leaving without a deal creates real risks, both in terms of environmental impacts in the short term, and potentially significant deregulatory pressures in the medium and long term. The Withdrawal Agreement, on the other hand, has key elements in the so-called Backstop which would underpin UK environmental standards, and force improvements in UK systems for environmental enforcement and governance. And these arrangements are also intended to form the basis for avoiding deregulatory competition on environmental standards in the longer-term relationship between the UK and the EU.

Brexit negotiations will continue to have short-term ups and downs. One message from the report is that the options for the long-term relationship have not really changed: assuming there is such a long-term agreement, then either the UK will be closely linked to the EU market, and will commit to a high level of common standards; or the UK will have a looser relationship. In both cases, non-regression and environmental governance commitments will be an important element in managing risks to future UK environmental policy, including the risks from future trade agreements with third countries.

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