Gove’s speech on ‘Green Brexit’: Response from the Brexit & Environment team

Northern Irish countryside

Twitter is alive with delighted but wary environmentalists who have attended Michael Gove’s speech today in which he declared his intent to ensure a green Brexit.

Experts at Brexit and Environment have been working on this area for two years now and there are some key messages that we are keen to convey to Mr Gove.

1. Mind the governance gap.

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU will see an extensive governance architecture that supports the monitoring, implementation and enforcement of environmental policy removed. It is essential that an equivalent set of processes are put in place – judicial review is not enough.  We take heart from your message this morning that you intend to address this issue and look forward to seeing more detailed plans. But we note that even though the environment is a devolved competence, your speech failed to mention the devolved administrations, and how you would work with them to deliver ambitious objectives.

2. Maintain and enhance standards.

Brexit must not be seen as an opportunity to water down environmental standards that protect our nature and human health. In your speech, you argued post Brexit the UK should become “a champion of sustainable development, an advocate for social justice, a leader in environmental science, a setter of gold standards in protecting and growing natural capital, an innovator in clean, green, growth and an upholder of the moral imperative to hand over our planet to the next generation in a better condition than we inherited it.” We look forward to seeing how you intend to deliver on this Green Brexit, starting with the long-promised 25-year environmental plan.

3. Transparent decisions on funding.

We have called (like the EAC) for public money to be spent on providing public goods in a future reformed agricultural and land use policy. A clear definition and set of principles must be developed to communicate what public goods are and how they will be supported.

Finally, on chemicals – you said in the House of Commons that you intend to regulate chemicals ‘better’ than the EU. Some detail would be nice, especially for the chemicals industry, which will have to meet EU requirements to export to the Single Market and may face both UK and EU registration systems. Rather than better – a broadly equivalent and aligned system may be more helpful for business and the environment.


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