What's Stopping This Government From Lighting A Post-Brexit Bonfire Under The UK's Environmental Laws?

What's Stopping This Government From Lighting A Post-Brexit Bonfire Under The UK's Environmental Laws?

It's an old adage - 'actions speak louder than words'. In politics, as in life, the government should be judged on what it actually does, not what its says its going to do.

Our current leaders, for example, say they have a plan on Brexit. Unfortunately leaked memos from the heart of the cabinet office makes its patently clear it has nothing of the sort.

They also have warm words when it comes to air pollution. Last week, Theresa May said 'there was more to do and we will do it' when it comes to tackling this invisible killer that takes 50,000 British lives prematurely every year.

The problem is, her statement came in the wake of yet another humiliating legal defeat for the British government - the second in 18 months - when the high court once again ruled that the government's plans to tackle illegal levels of air pollution were so inept, so scant, that they were in fact unlawful.

At home, the government has been dragged through the courts for failing to set out how it will meet its air quality targets, abroad, it has actively led a coalition of EU governments in trying to water down a range of measures that will halve the number of early deaths caused by toxic air pollution by 2030.

Today, the European Parliament gave the final sign off on the revised National Emissions Ceiling Directive (NECD). This has been a huge achievement, but one marred by a coalition of member states - so called the 'coalition of the unwilling' - led by the British government, which I wrote about back in July when the final deal was finally agreed.

The new limits will come into action from 2020, but after Britain's exit from the EU has been concluded in 2019 or beyond, will they still come into force on these shores?

The same question can be asked for the raft of other environmental and public health protections guaranteed by the EU - clean beach standards, safer drinking water regulations, vehicle exhaust standards, wildlife protection and rules that ensure our food is free from harmful chemicals.

The Hard Brexit being pushed by right-wing zealots in the Tory party and UKIP would put a huge question mark over the survival of all of this legislation. If these rules and regulations are dumped, it could kick start a race to the bottom as states compete against each other to get a short-term edge and the expense of long-term gains.

Actions speak far louder than words. If we look at how this government has acted over the last six years, then what on earth will stop ministers from lighting a post-Brexit bonfire under the UK's current environmental laws?


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