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The Brexit Blog

19th April 2017

Liz Watson

Brexit is an unprecedented political, economic and legal phenomenon. The Comply Direct Brexit Blog gives you expert advice on how Brexit might affect your environmental compliance obligations now, and in the future. Be sure to check in for regular updates.

Brexit Begins

31 March 2017

On March 29 2017 Theresa May triggered Article 50 firing the starting pistol on the two year process which will see the UK leave the EU in March 2019. However, rather than a sprint to the finish, the next two years promises unpleasant economic hurdles and political obstacles, not unlike those to be faced by the Comply Direct team when we tackle the Tough Mudder course later this year.

The minutes of meetings of the Bank of England used the word uncertainty 123 times in 2016 a rise of 78% on the year before, and the ‘u’ word promises to continue trending throughout 2017. In this, the first of our Brexit Blog series, we aim to clarify what we know (and don’t know) about the impact of Brexit on Environmental issues and compliance.

False Start…?

Rather than a bolt from the blocks, after any initial anticipation at the triggering of Article 50, for now, there is just an eerie silence. Over the next two years Britain will remain a member of the EU and will continue to be bound by EU law and, unless all 28 member states agree otherwise, will continue as such until March 2019.

Race Strategy

As the pistol was still smoking, the 30 March 2017 saw the publication of a government whitepaper setting out the terms of the Great Repeal Bill, a piece of legislation which will transpose all EU law into UK law in March 2019. A task made harder, following the admission that the government doesn’t actually know how many EU laws currently form a part of UK law.

The bill, which will be some 50 pages long, will include all existing EU Environmental Legislation including regulations on Packaging, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and landfill. Should the Circular Economy Package become EU law in the next two years, it will be transposed too.

Controversially the Great Repeal Bill will also allow for the amendment (and repealing) of legislation without parliamentary scrutiny. The government ‘promises’ to only use these powers for technical amendment, rather than policy shifts. But here, we enter murky waters, where is the line between a technical amendment and a policy shift? Despite assurances on the use of delegated powers the white paper outlines no safeguards.

Brexit and the Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement sets out legally binding commitments for cutting carbon emissions. The UK signed on the dotted line in 2016 and currently participates in a burden-sharing agreement for cutting carbon emissions across EU member states through the Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). The UK could remain in the scheme following a departure from the EU. However, uncertainty over the future of EU ETS remains.

Brexit and the Circular Economy Package

The Circular Economy Package aims to do away with the traditional linear model of take, consume, throw away, and move towards a circular model of reuse, repair and recycling.

DEFRA has indicated that it expects the Circular Economy Package to become EU law in the next two years, meaning it may well be transposed into the UK law under the Great Repeal Bill. Even if the Circular Economy Package is not transposed into UK law, or is subsequently amended, some obligations proposed under the Package (e.g. minimum recycled content in certain products), would indirectly apply to the UK because they affect products being supplied to the EU.

Pulling up short

So, we have not yet reached the first hurdle. But the UK exit from the EU promises to be a bumpy ride.