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European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Key Milestones:

  • Following the European Union membership (or ‘Brexit’) referendum on 23rd June 2016, the Government released its plans for the UK’s exit and new partnership with the EU as a white paper on 2nd February 2017, available here.
  • Notice to leave the EU (i.e. invoking Article 50 of the (Lisbon) Treaty of the EU) was given on 29th March 2017, after an overwhelmingly favourable vote (498 to 114) in Parliament, thereby triggering a two year deadline for the UK's exit. 
  • Formal plans to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 were drawn up as the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which was introduced to Parliament on the 13th July 2017.
  • The Bill received Royal Assent on 26th June 2018, becoming the EU (Withdrawal) Act. 

4th September 2017

The Society, alongside colleagues from CIEEM, CIWEM, CIWM, IEMA, IES, IFM and the Landscape Institute, collaborating as the Environmental Policy Forum (EPF), wrote to key ministers and MPs to warn that the EU Withdrawal Bill is inadequate to deliver Gove’s “Green Brexit” vision of healthier environment and to call for meaningful parliamentary scrutiny of environmental policies and laws.

In letters to Michael Gove and David Davis, we warned that the Bill fails to adequately provide for parliamentary scrutiny of the raft of changes required to make environmental laws function, ensure the fundamental principles which underpin decades of environmental improvement are protected, or provide a meaningful framework for independent scrutiny of future Government performance on the environment. We also warned that devolved administrations should not be constrained from pursuing ambitious environmental policies and targets of their own as a result of the powers the Bill creates.

We called for the legal establishment of a new body, answerable to Parliament and fully independent of Government which would help provide the kind of scrutiny currently provided by the European Commission. In the past this has allowed citizens and organisations to take governments to court over failing to meet legal obligations such as on air quality. We also called for parliamentary committees to rubber stamp or call in for scrutiny the large number of laws which Ministers can approve, under so called ‘Henry VIII powers’, as EU laws are made workable in the UK.

Society for the Environment and EPF Chair, Professor Will Pope said “the Government has welcome ambitions for the environment, with a new 25 year plan imminent and a commitment to improve environmental quality for future generations. Yet plans without appropriate tools and measures for delivery and scrutiny will be doomed to failure. Brexit offers certain opportunities to manage our environment in a more effective manner, more bespoke to UK needs. Yet it also presents real risks that measures which have achieved cleaner rivers, seas, towns and cities could be eroded. We are calling for appropriate checks and balances to be established from the outset, to ensure we do not risk becoming the ‘dirty man of Europe’ again”.

The Society provides the secretariat for the Environmental Policy Forum. See more here.

Read the full briefing here.

See some of the press coverage: 

12th October 2017

The EPF shared its concerns about the EU (Withdrawal) Bill with the House of Lords Constitution Committee in response to their inquiry on its constitutional implications, specifically around three themes: 

  • the relationship between Parliament and the executive; 
  • the rule of law and legal certainty;
  • and the consequences for the UK's territorial constitution.

Our full submission is available here

14th November 2017

On the day that the EU (Withdrawal) Bill came back to the House of Commons to debate amendments tabled, the EPF warned that time is running out to effectively transpose EU environmental acquis into UK law.

A number of recent developments, whilst generally welcome, compound the EPF's concerns over the lack of time remaining. Areas covered in this release included:

  • the Proposed Environmental 'Commission';
  • the Powers of DEFRA's NDPBs;
  • and Exit Day.

The initial two days of debate took place on the 14th and 15th November 2017. A further six days of debate at this committee stage are planned.

The full EPF release is available here 

21st February 2018

As the EU (Withdrawal) Bill starts its journey through the House of Lords' Committee Stage, during which Peers will go through the Bill line by line, the EPF re-iterated its concerns about the implications of the Bill, in its current state, on the environment. 

Whilst the EPF recognises some of the concessions that have been made during the Bill's journey through the House of Commons as well as other developments (such as promised consultations on, for example, environmental governance arrangements post-Brexit), the group has contacted Peers about its concerns around: 

  • appropriate parliamentary scrutiny;
  • the environmental 'governance gap';
  • embedding environmental principles in law;
  • and arrangements with the devolved administrations.

The Bill and Peers' tabled amendments will be debated over ten sessions between 21st February and 26th March. 

Read our full briefing here.

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