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 Blog - Michael Gove reveals plans to replace the Environment Agency - update 13 November
Tomorrow (14 November) sees the return of the Brexit Bill in parliament as Michael Gove, the environment secretary of state, reveals plans to replace the Environment Agency with a new regulatory body which would have greater power than the Environment Agency and deliver a green Brexit.
Yesterday (12 November) Michael Gove said outside the EU we would have the chance to make changes and there would be a consultation in the new year on establishing "a new, world-leading body to give the environment a voice and hold the powerful to account. It will be independent of Government, able to speak its mind freely.
“And it will be placed on a statutory footing, ensuring it has clear authority. Its ambition will be to champion and uphold environmental standards, always rooted in rigorous scientific evidence.
“We will consult widely on the precise functions, remit and powers of the new body but we are in no doubt that it must have real bite.
“We also need to ensure that environmental enforcement and policy-making is underpinned by a clear set of principles. Environmental principles are already central to Government policy.”
Currently, it is unknown once we leave the EU how the powers of the Environment Agency will change and who will take on environmental powers and decisions.
We will keep you up to date on the progress of this as it happens.
Brexit Blog - General Election 2017, Manifestos - update 5 June
The General Election 2017 is just days away, and with this in mind we have reviewed the manifestos of each of the 4 main political parties and importantly examined all the key points in their manifestos for our environment.
The Conservative Party
Back in 2015, the Conservative Party voiced their bold statement - to be the 'greenest government ever'. Whether this statement has become true or not remains to be seen, however, their manifesto outlines plans that may support the opinion that the work on our environment is no where near finished.
The Conservative Party have made it clear in their manifesto that they are fully supportive of the environmental and legislation around the recycling waste management. Their manifesto states that it pledges to support 'comprehensive rubbish collection and recycling'. The Conservative party's manifest also outlines admitting that more needs to be done to get to the environmental standards that we want as a nation, promising to 'do more to reduce litter' which includes 'supporting better packaging' and take new powers to force councils to remove the litter from roadsides.
The Great Repeal Bill is focused on in-depth in the Conservative manifesto. The Great Repeal Bill will convert existing EU legislation into UK law, meaning that once these laws are made UK law the government that wins the election will the right to edit and improve or amend any particular piece of legislation it wishes to.
The determination of the Great Repeal Bill could give a favourable advantage to the Conservative party, as workers in the UK will have comfort knowing that the rules will not be changed overnight. The conservatives have also outlined their commitment to publishing a 25 Year Environmental Plan and take back our own powers for our environment.
The Labour Party
Labour has made it clear that their manifesto is determined to protecting environmental laws ahead of Brexit. The Labour party's main straplines have been aimed at 'Creating an Economy that works for all' and 'For the Many, Not the Few'. The Labour manifesto states that they will set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes working with food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste'.
The manifesto by the labour party outlines their plans for a Clean Air Act, to look after habitats and species and build relationships with farmers. In connection with the Conservative Party's wording around the Green Repeal Bill, Labour's manifesto also outlines their intentions to back the Great Repeal Bill in terms of the EU Rights and Protections Bill, ensuring there is no 'detrimental change' to environmental protections. With Brexit in progression, it is essential that there is a sense of certainty in the environmental policies which the Labour party has set out, making sure that workplace, consumer rights and environmental protection are the prime focuses. The Labour party's wording includes 'making sure that all EU-derived laws are of benefit - including workplace laws, consumer rights and environmental protections'.
The Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats manifesto includes pledges on waste which include a statutory 70% recycling target and a tax on incineration. This manifesto expresses a new commitment to introduce and pass the 'Zero Waste Act', which would include legally-binding targets for reducing net consumption of key natural resources, and introducing incentives for companies to improve natural resource efficiency. Other outlined plans by the Liberal Democrat's manifesto are the introduction of a 5p charge for disposable coffee cups, which would 'build on the success' of the introduction of the plastic carrier bag charge. Their manifesto repeats the 2015 pledge to establish a coherent tax and regulatory framework for landfill, incineration and waste collection. The Liberal Democrat Party has promised to deliver food waste collections to at least 90% of homes by 2022.
The Liberal Democrats target the Conservative party critically in their manifesto, claiming that the Conservatives are determined to take the UK back to the 1980's, as well as stating that Theresa May is creating a 'cold, mean-spirited Britain'. They also insist that they have promised a second referendum on EU membership, believing that the EU has created the highest environmental standards in the world.
The Green Party
The Green Party's manifesto has pledged to ensure that existing environmental laws are retained and enhanced in the UK no matter what the future holds, policies which include the Precautionary and Polluter-Pays principles which would be transferred into UK statue books and therefore this looks likely that the Green Party would opt in favour of the Green Repeal Bill. They have outlined that they would introduce a new environmental regulatory framework to effectively monitor and enforce environmental law here in the UK, and guarantee strong protections for our natural environment and ocean, including a long-term 25-year target for biodiversity, water and air quality.
The Green Party's manifesto also focuses on the energy system in the UK, stating it is currently 'broken' and is not delivering what households and businesses need. Therefore, The Green Party has promised to breathe life back into the Climate Change Act by investing in an energy system fit for the 21st century and ensuring that all new investment in energy is directed towards clean and renewable energy. They also state that they would promote the culture of reusing and refilling through the introduction of a bottle deposit scheme and free public water dispensers and a community refill scheme.
We will keep our members up to date with all the latest news and changes to legislation as a result of the General Election and Brexit. In the meantime, if you any questions, please get in touch with us.
Brexit Blog Phase 2 - General Election - update 27 April
Following on from our first Brexit blog entry below discussing Article 50, the Paris Agreement and the Circular Economy package our next insight into Brexit shifts to look at the immediate decision of a General Election.
The Prime Minister, Theresa May has shocked the whole country and the EU with her announcement of an emergency General Election, taking place on 8 June 2017. This action by May has placed even greater uncertainty over the future relationship between the UK and the EU and the policy measures and legislation which will apply following Brexit. MP's approved a motion in parliament on 19 April calling an election some three years ahead of when the next ballot was set to be called. The Prime Minister had previously ruled out an early General Election, however, upon changing her mind, Theresa May informed the country that the decision of a General Election had been taken to shore up support within Parliament over the UK's negotiations to leave the European Union, which could work in the UK's favour when negotiating terms for a UK exit from the EU.
What lies ahead for our policies?
The truth is, no-one has a definitive answer until we have seen which government will take power and what measurements will be taken to bring a calmer and hopefully a more sustainable Britain post-Brexit. The current government has previously confirmed that existing laws from the EU legislation will be safeguarded before Brexit, with the UK working in the future to create our own UK driven environmental policies. The Tory commitment to the Great Repeal Bill offers some short-term security for our environmental policies. As reported on our first Brexit blog, the Repeal Bill is a piece of legislation which will transpose all EU law into UK law in March 2019. 50 pages long, the paperwork will include all existing EU Environmental legislation including regulations on Packaging, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and landfill.
It's sure that no matter which party is elected on the 8 June, leaving the EU will be a difficult task for whoever is in charge. Keep checking in to find all the latest updates on these historical events!
Brexit Blog, Brexit Begins - update 19 April
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.
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.
As the pistol was still smoking, the 30 March 2017 saw the publication of a government white paper 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.