Brexit and the environment—current state of play

Brexit and the environment—current state of play

Environment analysis: Simon Tilling, Partner and head of environmental law at Burges Salmon LLP considers the current UK-EU negotiating position on key environmental issues, the alignment of UK laws with EU-laws and non-regression, the potential impact of the Internal market Bill on these issues and what to expect moving forward.

What are the current UK and EU negotiating positions on key environmental issues such as emissions trading, chemicals and REACH?

We should start by remembering that the environmental sector was largely pro-EU in the 2016 referendum campaign, no doubt informed by the fact that so much of the legal framework for the protection of the environment comes from the EU, and the knowledge that many of the big environmental issues facing us today need to be tackled on a global scale. This thinking has continued to endure within some rather optimistic views on what a free trade agreement might achieve in ‘locking in’ environmental protection by coupling us to an increasingly ambitious European Commission green agenda.

The political reality is rather different. Take the EU REACH Regulation on chemicals. Over the past decade, the European Chemicals Agency has received vast quantities of scientific data from industry on the chemicals placed on the EU single market in quantities over one tonne p.a. That data is used by the European Chemicals Agency and all of the chemicals agencies within member states to evaluate the potential hazards of those chemicals. Both the chemicals industry and environmental campaigners have been arguing that it is absurd to replicate this in the UK, rather than to align UK chemicals regulation with EU REACH and share that data. The cost to industry of replicating the database in the UK has been estimated at one billion pounds even before the question arises of how the UK agency (the HSE) will evaluate it all.

On 1 October this year, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, was asked on the floor of the House of Commons

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