Give us our Green Brexit! Campaigners urge Boris to make most of shedding EU rules

Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak announces plans for green projects

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In 2017, Michael Gove – the then-former Environment Secretary – said Brexit offered a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform agriculture and fisheries”. But an environmental coalition group, known as Greener UK, has warned the promise has not yet been delivered.

The groups, including The Wildlife Trust, RSPB and ClientEarth, have called for the UK Government to deliver on their promise of the so-called “green Brexit”.

While ranking policy areas, Greener UK claimed protections for climate, farming, fisheries and water quality are similar to 2016.

However, they found chemicals, nature, air quality and waste were notably weaker.

Sarah Williams, head of Greener UK, said: “We looked across policy areas and concluded that in no areas was the government doing better [than EU regulations] and in many, it was weaker.

“There are big question marks in many areas, such as enforcement.

“There is still time for the government to make its plans stronger, particularly for chemicals and air pollution, and follow through on promising proposals for farming.

“We really hope it does so.”

Ms Williams called for the Office of Environmental Protection to be more independent and to be given broader powers to enforce regulations.

Craig Bennett, from The Wildlife Trusts, criticised the Government and said Marine Protected Areas were still be damaged through trawling and dredging.

He said: “We were solemnly promised that the UK would maintain and enhance our environmental standards after Brexit.

“Although that might have happened in some areas, massive gaps have opened up as a result of this process – and enforcement is weaker across the board.

“To take a few of many examples, it is a disgrace that many of our offshore Marine Protected Areas are still being damaged through trawling and dredging and that our rivers are still routinely polluted.

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“The interests of big businesses prevail.”

Beccy Speight from the RSPB added: “What we were promised was a Green Brexit with protections at least as strong if not stronger than those that applied before Brexit – what we have seen so far suggests a legacy of weakening many of the policies, regulations and legislation.”

Environment Secretary George Eustice reaffirmed the Government’s promise for a Green Brexit Britain.

He said Britain’s exit from the bloc allows the country to deliver “better environmental outcomes” in “effective and efficient” ways.

Mr Eustice told the BBC: “Now more than ever, it’s vital that we protect our precious natural environment.

“That’s why we are working hard – rewarding farmers for managing their land in a way which preserves it for future generations, championing sustainable fishing and setting legally binding targets to help restore nature and biodiversity.

“Our exit from the EU enables the UK to set our own world-leading legislation, delivering better environmental outcomes in an effective and efficient way and in line with our own regulatory systems – ensuring we protect and improve our precious environment for future generations.”

The environmental group praised the positive developments of the Brexit trade deal – which was signed by the Prime Minister back in December.

Their report said the UK’s new farm subsidy regime offers a good opportunity to wildlife as well as the UK Fisheries Bill does not prevent overfishing.

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