November 16th, 2018
The Environmental Pillar welcomes the inclusion of a commitment in the draft withdrawal agreement to maintaining current levels of environmental protection across the island of Ireland post-Brexit.
It also includes a clause designed to prevent any regression of environmental laws, regulations and practices in the UK or the EU following the Brexit next March 29th.
This “non-regression” clause includes rules covering a broad range of issues e.g. environmental impact assessment, air quality monitoring, biodiversity conservation, access to justice in environmental matters and climate mitigation measures.
It will also oblige both parties to continue to respect the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle, as set out in the EU treaties, as well as in international conventions.
However, the effectiveness of these provisions will rely, to a large extent, on ensuring that the UK puts in place robust measures for guaranteeing effective oversight and enforcement of environmental standards, including in Northern Ireland.
The UK’s current proposal for an environmental ‘watchdog’ for England does not meet the requirements described in the draft Withdrawal Agreement.
The political declaration that will frame the negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship will need to ensure the UK cannot undercut EU environmental standards in a future trade deal.
The Environment Pillar expects clear commitments in this declaration, with clear provisions on a “level playing field” for the environment that build on those in the draft Withdrawal Agreement – including a requirement for the UK to match the strengthening of EU rules.
This is critical to avoiding cross-border pollution and environmentally damaging divergence on the island of Ireland.
Environmental Pillar Brexit spokesperson, Oonagh Duggan, said:
“The Environmental Pillar welcomes the reference to maintaining baseline environmental standards between the EU and the UK in the draft withdrawal agreement.
“The effectiveness of these environmental commitments will depend on the robustness of the measures put in place by the UK by the end of the ‘transition phase’ in order to ensure implementation and enforcement, including in Northern Ireland.
“It is critical that these environmental commitments are fully reflected in the Political Declaration and developed in the negotiations on the long-term future relationship.
“To minimise the risks of damage to our shared environment, the future relationship must ensure continued alignment of environmental protection on the island of Ireland”