The transfer of EU environmental law into UK law

The Government has made repeatedly clear that all EU legislation will be converted into UK law at the point of the UK’s departure from the EU. This will provide continuity and certainty for individuals in the UK and in the EU. Parliament has the power to amend or repeal any laws that it wishes and it will, of course, be able to modify retained EU law in the future.

The environmental principles that you mention have had an important influence on the creation of EU environmental legislation which is itself being transferred into UK law. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will ensure that, wherever practical, the same rules apply in this country after we leave as they did before.

Although the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will end, the Government will ensure that strong and effective governance arrangements are in place after the UK’s exit from the EU. No decisions have yet been taken on the UK’s future relationship with EU agencies including with the European Environment Agency. This is a matter for the negotiations.

Outside the EU, we have an opportunity to learn from both the Commissions successes and failures. We can develop new institutions which do a better job and hold us to higher standards. So it is the UK’s intention to use the freedom that independence brings to establish a new world-leading body to give the environment a voice and hold the powerful to account. It will be independent of government and able to speak its mind freely. It will be placed on a statutory footing, ensuring that it has clear legal authority. Its ambition will be to champion and uphold environmental standards, always rooted in rigorous scientific evidence. The Government will consult widely on the precise functions, remit and powers of the new body but I am in no doubt that it must have real bite.

By early next year, a formal consultation on this new environmental body will be launched. There are significant questions to answer, such as exactly what functions and powers the new body has to enforce environmental laws, exactly how a new policy statement is embedded into public policy making, and whether Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland wish to take a different or similar approach. The Government wants to work through these questions with as many people and organisations as possible – from business, NGOs, the farming sector, civil society, the devolved administrations and elsewhere. It will be engaging widely before bringing forward a final proposal.

Nothing can be more vital than the future of our environment and the natural world. We are their custodians and we must safeguard their future if our ambition for a Green Brexit is to become a reality. We have the chance to set the gold standard for environmental science and become a home to centres of environmental excellence. A new independent, statutory body will ensure that outside the EU, the UK becomes the world-leading curator of the most precious asset of all: our planet.