The government’s stated goal in the Great Repeal Bill White Paper is to “ensure that the whole body of existing EU environmental law continues to have effect in domestic law”. This broad commitment is reassuring, yet it is stated elsewhere that the bill will only convert EU law into domestic law “wherever practical and sensible”, and it is not yet clear whether this could create gaps in environmental protections.
There is currently no information on whether new fisheries legislation is needed to replace the Common Fisheries Policy, or whether the Repeal Bill will be enough. In whatever format the legislation comes forward, it is important that key principles are included in the emerging legislation and that there are effective processes in place to facilitate shared management both within and beyond the UK.
Civil service capacity is limited, with Defra due to see a 15% reduction in its resource spending between 2015 and 2020, although Defra has drafted in several new members of staff to assist the Brexit negotiations and domestic reform teams. There remains a concern that fisheries is being treated separately from marine protection and conservation (led by different ministers) which could lead to a lack of coherence between these intrinsically linked areas, but there is some evidence of trying to join up the two areas, with a representative of the Defra marine team joining the April fisheries sectoral meeting.