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The EU is the source of the majority of environmental legislation in the UK, including RoHS, REACH and producer responsibility regulations. As a result, the UK's withdrawal from the EU will have a significant impact on environmental policy in the UK and the means by which it is implemented. The Government’s intention is that the Great Repeal Bill will effectively transpose EU law into UK law, ensuring environmental legislative stability and facilitating trade with the EU.
The report recommends that the review being undertaken by each government department of how legislation in their policy areas will be affected by Brexit be used to inform the Great Repeal Bill and other legislative action. The level of access to the EU Market will inform product environmental standards and future UK policy constraints, though the report notes that the strong mutual interest to maintain cross-border trade should ensure that these are fully aligned.
The deterrent effect of the power of EU institutions to hold the UK to account and to levy fines or non-compliance will no longer be applicable post Brexit. The report highlights the importance of a strong domestic enforcement mechanism to replace the roles of the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Great Repeal Bill could provide powers to the Government to designate national successor bodies before Brexit takes place.
The report also recommends that informal avenues are fully utilised to mitigate the impact of the loss of formal negotiating power within the EU. The UK can continue to influence EU policy through trade associations and NGOs maintaining close contact with their European pressure groups. As a global leader on climate action, the UK can also co-ordinate with other regional and thematic negotiating blocs with which it shares policy goals.
The report identifies that the key challenges will be to effectively maintain environmental protection through the Great Repeal Bill and to ensure legislative oversight and enforcement. It recommends that environmental standards are co-ordinated with the EU in the future and that diplomatic and informal avenues are explored to maintain influence post-Brexit. Organisations can continue to influence policymaking through contributions to parliamentary inquiries and lobbying.