The UK Government is “worryingly complacent” over how it will enforce environmental regulations after the UK leaves the EU.
That’s according to the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, which believes upholding environmental standards after Brexit will be hard.
It states European institutions such as the Commission and the Court of Justice have had a “strong impact” in ensuring the UK complied with EU environmental protection. They also played a key role in ensuring Member States were held to account and fined for non-compliance.
The Lords EU Committee suggests an independent domestic enforcement mechanism will be necessary to fill the vacuum left by the European Commission.
It says the UK’s environment will remain “inextricably linked” to that of Europe after Brexit so the UK and EU will continue to be affected by one another’s climate and environment policies.
Under the government’s plans, a process called Great Repeal Bill, existing EU law will be converted to domestic law before the government decides which to keep and which to get rid of.
EU environmental law includes areas such as nature and biodiversity, waste, recycling and chemical regulations while the climate action measures include emissions trading, energy efficiency standards and support for low carbon technologies.
The Committee noted the UK may wish to co-ordinate environmental standards with the EU in the future, to both enable trade and ensure the effective protection of the natural environment.
It also suggested the UK should explore diplomatic avenues to maintain its influence in climate negotiations post-Brexit.
However it is unsure the government is planning such a system post-Brexit.
The report states: “The importance of the role of the EU institutions in ensuring effective enforcement of environmental protection and standards, underpinned as it is by the power to take infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom or against any other Member State, cannot be over-stated.
“The government’s assurances that future Governments will, in effect, be able to regulate themselves, along with Ministers’ apparent confusion between political accountability to Parliament and judicial oversight, are worryingly complacent.”
Defra said it aims to leave the environment “in a better state than we found it”.
A spokesperson added: “We are committed to building on our long history of wildlife and environmental protection and securing the best deal for Britain as we leave the EU.
“We are clear that we are ready to deliver all of this government’s priorities and will continue to build the right skills, experience and leadership to deal with the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.”