Brexit – still time to influence UK environmental policy

Our suited Briton has finally sawn off his branch

The Shakespearean theatre of Brexit completed its final act on 31st January 2020.  Accomplishment of a damaging misrepresentation or a visionary “taking back of control”, according to your viewpoint. We now need to move on.

Wild Europe marked the occasion by funding the latest stage of a wild nature mapping and strategy programme by our partners in France.

There is scope for us all to influence the consequences for environmental policy, from within the UK and – for a short while – also through pan European representation to EC negotiators

Scope for pan EU action

Negotiations on Britain’s exit deal with the EU are still very fluid. There is an opportunity for all European environmental NGOs to influence appropriate provision for environmental interests, while there is still strong collective leverage during negotiation of future arrangements.

Four objectives to secure for the UK

  1. To safeguard and build on 47 years of EU environmental legislation. The UK – with environmental and agricultural policy devolved to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – can either see legal protections eroded, setting a negative precedent for the rest of Europe, or it can improve their effectiveness 
  2. To develop better strategies for nature using the new freedom of choice. A key opportunity here is to replace dysfunctional elements of CAP with application of the “public services for public payments” ethos, promoting effective funding mechanisms from the Payment for Ecosystem Services agenda. Such innovations could offer valuable examples for Europe
  3. To retain close coordination between Britain and the EU after final departure, particularly where international issues are involved. The UK has, for example, been a leading advocate of the Emissions Trading Scheme, and should seek close liaison on use of trade and aid policies to secure global environmental standards
  4. To retain and strengthen exchange of expertise and best practice between UK and EU organisations, even as removal of EC funding diminishes incentive: NGO networks, research links and joint EU/non-EU country partnerships can all provide opportunities. Links including non-EU Europe should be strengthened wherever possible through entities such as the Bern Convention, itself currently facing an uncertain future

Here is a brief timeline for making representations to the EU in 2020

25th FebruaryProbable sign off for the EU negotiating mandate
JuneLikelihood of a summit to assess progress. Final month for extending the Transition Period
26th NovemberCurrent deadline for a core trade deal to be finalised & presented to the European Parliament
31st DecemberEnd of current Transition Period. UK falls back to basic World Trading Organization rules if no trade deal is secured
Post 2020Even with a core trade deal, other negotiations will continue, including on the crucial services sector

It is for conservation NGOs on both sides of the Channel to determine the best pressure points and act in concerted representation to chosen targets.

Wild Europe’s remit will focus on the protection and restoration of natural ecosystem areas – wild lands and wilderness