Government ministers confirmed that the ‘whole body’ of existing environmental laws derived from EU legislation would be safeguarded in UK law before Brexit.
Confirmation came in the Department for Exiting the European Union (DEXEU) white paper setting out the terms of the government’s Great Repeal Bill, which is expected to be put in place before the UK withdraws from the European Union in summer 2019.
Environmental laws will be among those brought into UK statute under the Great Repeal Bill, DEXEU has said.
This is expected to include regulations on waste, packaging, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and landfill – although the government has stated that it could consult on changes to regulatory frameworks in future.
This will mean that existing targets and commitments established in EU legislation such as the Waste Framework, Packaging and Packaging Waste or Landfill Directives will continue to apply at least until the government has put in place alternative legislation to pursue a different course.
The government noted that it is keen to ensure that businesses have ‘maximum certainty’ over the status of environmental laws ahead of Brexit, and to enshrine standards that affect the trade in products ‘across different markets’.
In the White Paper, the government has said that it is “committed to ensuring that we become the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it”.
It added: “The UK’s current legislative framework at national, EU and international level has delivered tangible environmental benefits, such as cleaner rivers and reductions in emissions of sulphur dioxide and ozone depleting substances emissions. Many existing environmental laws also enshrine standards that affect the trade in products and substances across different markets, within the EU as well as internationally.
“The Great Repeal Bill will ensure that the whole body of existing EU environmental law continues to have effect in UK law. This will provide businesses and stakeholders with maximum certainty as we leave the EU. We will then have the opportunity, over time, to ensure our legislative framework is outcome driven and delivers on our overall commitment to improving the environment within a generation. The Government recognises the need to consult on future changes to the regulatory frameworks, including through parliamentary scrutiny.”
A focus will turn to now move on to the ongoing negotiations over the Circular Economy package, which is currently being finalised within the European Union and will replace existing EU laws on waste and recycling.
Should the Circular Economy package be adopted into formal EU law, as appears likely, before the end of the two-year withdrawal process, it is likely to be among the provisions to be brought into UK law via the Great Repeal Bill.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has continued its involvement in negotiations over the CE package ‘in good faith’ since the Brexit result with some civil servants anticipating that the UK will opt to adhere to the proposals outlined in the package after Brexit.