Houses of Parliament

The environmental implications of different Brexit outcomes

The outcome of Brexit remains uncertain. Will the future EU-UK relationship be more distant, based around a 'Canada-style' trade deal, or will it be close, along the lines of a ‘Norway-plus’ relationship? Will we end up with no deal, or no Brexit at all?

And, crucially, what are the environmental implications of these different outcomes?

Greener UK, set up to protect and enhance the environment in Brexit, has analysed the risks of each main potential Brexit outcome on a scale of low to very high (June 2019). It has considered the potential outcomes against a set of Brexit benchmarks (October 2018), and in summary attributed the following risks:

The November 2018 deal. Risk to environment: medium

A ‘Canada-style’ Brexit. Risk to environment: high

A customs union. Risk to environment: medium

A ‘Norway-plus’ relationship. Risk to environment: low

Remain. Risk to environment: low

No deal. Risk to environment: very high

This new briefing also sets out recommendations for how the environment can best be protected through Brexit. Greener UK recommends that the UK government:

  1. Seeks a relationship with the EU that enables close co-operation on the environment, as a core element of the “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership” described in the Political Declaration.
  1. Improves the Political Declaration (if Brexit is to go ahead). Among other things, this should be done by:
    1. ensuring that the future EU-UK relationship aims for a high level of environmental protection and recovery;
    2. building on the non-regression provisions in the backstop, so that neither the EU nor the UK weakens environmental protection in future;
    3. enabling continued UK participation in key EU agencies responsible for environment, chemicals and energy;
    4. and incorporating a dynamic, co-operative and ambitious approach to regulatory protection for the environment, so that the UK at least keeps pace with the EU on environmental standards – and in many cases aims higher.
  1. Makes the draft Westminster environment bill fit for purpose by:
    1. introducing a legal framework for leaving the environment in a better state, with binding targets;
    2. strengthening the independence and powers of the proposed Office for Environmental Protection; and
    3. widening the scope and strength of the environmental principles.
  1. Establishes a trade policy, anchored in primary legislation, which safeguards the environment, provides transparency, and gives parliament and civil society a voice in trade negotiations.

There is a huge amount at stake for the environment in Brexit. Environmental protections must be maintained and strengthened during the process.