Meandering river

Risk Tracker

Most of the UK’s environmental protections stem from EU law and so could be changed as a result of Brexit. Greener UK has created this Risk Tracker to show which policy areas are more secure, and which are most at risk. We hope the UK government will go further than simply safeguarding protections, to take advantage of the great opportunity of restoring nature and our natural resources within a generation, as set out in the Greener UK vision.

Polling in December 2016 found that 80 per cent of the British public think the UK should have the same or stronger levels of environmental protection after we leave the EU. But pressure to agree new trade deals and remove regulations could lead the government to water down standards, leaving nature worse off and potentially threatening public health.

We have assigned traffic light ratings to each significant policy area, to indicate low (green), medium (amber) or high risk (red). Click on an icon for our analysis of the level of risk and to see the supporting evidence in the UK government’s statements and track record.

Key

Verdicts:

High risk

Medium risk

Low risk


Air pollution

Chemicals

Water

Waste & resources

Fisheries

Climate & energy

Farming & land use

Nature protection
Air pollution
Chemicals
Water
Waste & resources
Fisheries
Climate & energy
Farming & land use
Nature protection

This update covers perhaps the most contentious stage yet of the Brexit process. As debate increased over what kind of future the UK should seek, Greener UK launched a set of ‘Brexit benchmarks’ to measure how far environmental standards will be protected and enhanced in the event of different Brexit outcomes.

These were particularly useful when the UK government published the Withdrawal Agreement and accompanying political statement on the future relationship in November. Our analysis found several welcome elements of the agreement, including its commitment not to backslide on standards and its requirement for an independent and robust green body or bodies that far exceed Defra’s current proposals.

Yet concerns and questions persist. The political statement says little about future co-operation and ambition, in areas such as nature protection. If the new governance body or bodies are weaker than current EU institutions, standards are likely to slip.

Risks remain, particularly that of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Leaving without a deal would have a hugely detrimental impact on the environment and must be challenged on that basis.

Read our PDF or click on the icons to explore each policy area.

The period between May and July 2018 was eventful, with consultations published on future environmental governance and fisheries. While gains were made on the government’s initial proposals for enforcing environmental laws after Brexit, Defra’s plans still fell short of existing protections. We believe that an unprecedented number of public responses were submitted to the department outlining concerns on scope and application, and we wait to see whether the government will act to address them.
The government also published its Brexit white paper in this period, laying out its approach to negotiations with the European Union. This contains a number of positive steps, including a common rulebook for all goods including agri-food and the intention to include a non-regression clause in the future relationship.

Yet the uncertainty surrounding the government’s Brexit policy, negotiation strategy and parliamentary support adds a further, anxious dimension to this analysis. There are significant concerns with the increasing possibility of a no deal Brexit, and the potentially disastrous consequences this would have on the environment. Greener UK’s paper on ‘no deal’, published in July, explored these fears in detail.

The prospect of a no deal Brexit should alarm anyone who cares for the UK’s environment and countryside. It will have deeply damaging consequences that will be felt for years to come. The Risk Tracker needs to be read in this context: almost all the concerns we raise are considerably amplified by the prospect of crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Read our PDF or click on the icons to explore each policy area.

This update period included the following events: agreement between UK and EU negotiators on a time bound transition period after 19 March 2019, with discussions on the nature of future agreement now about to get underway; the EU’s publication of guidelines for negotiations on the future relationship; committee stage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Lords; the publication of Defra’s farming policy consultation paper; several speeches by ministers including the chancellor and foreign secretary, and a speech by the prime minister at Mansion House, where she laid out her five tests for a final agreement with the EU.

Read our PDF or click on the icons to explore each policy area.

This update period included the following events: committee stage and third reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill; agreement between UK and EU negotiators that “sufficient progress” has been made to move to phase two of the Brexit negotiations; a major speech by Environment Secretary Michael Gove on farming; and a major speech by Prime Minister Theresa May to launch the 25 year environment plan.

Read our PDF or click on the icons to explore each policy area.

This update period included the following events: publication and second reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill; a major speech by environment secretary Michael Gove at the WWF headquarters; publication of several UK government position papers, including one on foreign policy and one on Northern Ireland and Ireland; and the prime minister’s third major speech on Brexit in Florence.

Read our PDF or click on the icons to explore each policy area.

This risk tracker, which covers the 12 months beginning with the EU referendum in June 2016, included the following events: the publication of a white paper on Brexit, outlining the UK government’s negotiating priorities in February 2017; the triggering of Article 50 in March 2017; the Great Repeal Bill White Paper published in March 2017; and the 2017 general election.

Read our PDF or click on the icons to explore each policy area.

EU baseline

We have outlined the environmental protections that the UK has had as a member of the EU as a starting point for measurement: see our EU baseline information.

Note that this tracker only covers policy in the UK (where it is not devolved) and England (where policy is governed from Westminster). It excludes areas of policy that are devolved to other UK countries.

Acknowledgements

The Greener UK Brexit Risk Tracker is edited by Amy Mount, head of the Greener UK unit at Green Alliance, with support from Gemma Wells and Stephen Hinchley, RSPB. The expert contributors are: Simon Alcock, ClientEarth (air quality); Michael Warhurst and Andrea Speranza, Chem Trust (chemicals); Chaitanya Kumar, Green Alliance (climate and energy); Claire Feniuk and Juliette Young, RSPB (land use); Alistair Taylor, RSPB (nature); Dustin Benton and Libby Peake, Green Alliance (waste and resources); and Hannah Freeman, WWT (water).