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Campaigners demand Brexit protection of EU laws

Campaign groups have welcomed a government commitment to bring current EU environmental protections into UK law but called for more detail on how such laws would be upheld and enforced post-Brexit.

Last week the UK government published its Brexit white paper in which it stated that “we will use the Great Repeal Bill to bring the current framework of environmental regulations into UK and devolved law”.

Although campaigners welcomed the commitment, they also expressed concern at the lack of detail in the white paper amid fears that environmental protections will be slowly eroded once the UK leaves the EU.

“We need more information regarding how this will work in practice, and additional measures and institutions will be needed to ensure it continues to be properly upheld and enforced,” said Samuel Lowe, Friends of the Earth campaigner. “The Great Repeal Bill must ensure that any future changes are made by parliament, and not on the whim of ministers.”

Friends of the Earth also welcomed the government’s intention to discuss remaining a part of agencies such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) as part of exit negotiations, stating that a level playing field on issues such as chemical safety is not only good for people and the environment, but makes sense for business too.

In its white paper, the government acknowledged that the UK’s agriculture, food and fisheries sectors were currently heavily influenced by EU laws, through frameworks such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy, and through other rules that govern issues such as environmental protection and animal welfare.

It noted that leaving the EU would offer the UK “a significant opportunity to design new, better and more efficient policies for delivering sustainable and productive farming, land management and rural communities”, which would enable the government to deliver its vision for a “world-leading food and farming industry”.

On Wednesday, MPs voted unanimously in favour of the government’s Brexit bill, which passed through the House of Commons without a single amendment.