Today sees the launch of Greener UK, a new coalition of 13 organisations who’ve come together to make sure that the environment doesn’t get forgotten about as the UK sets out on a new course towards leaving the EU.
Membership of the EU has had an impact on the UK’s environment. EU directives have pushed UK governments into action to clean up beaches and rivers and have provided strong protections for birds and habitats. The EU has also promoted cooperation on heritage across its members.
In terms of farming, the EU impacts has been mixed. The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) helped the drive over many decades towards more intensive agriculture at the expense of long-term sustainability of the natural systems that sustain that farming. This has also contributed to the loss of wildlife, though recent changes have helped fund schemes combining farming with environmental benefits. Most scheduled monuments are also in farmland. CAP rules have helped to protect them and provide funding for their conservation.
Leaving the EU could change these. But it’s also likely to lead to debates about what kind of country (or countries) we should live in post-Brexit. Part of this will be about identity in relation to Europe and the wider world, but also about what kind of economy the UK might be. Is our future based on high-quality produce, goods and services or can the UK compete by a more deregulatory buccaneering approach to competing internationally?
The decisions that flow from the debate about how the UK leaves the EU will have an impact on the UK’s natural and cultural heritage. That’s why we are part of the Greener UK’s call on the Government to restore and enhance the UK’s environment and maintain its environmental protections during Brexit negotiations.
Our organisations are not alone in calling for this. Over 140 MPs have backed the Greener UK pledge and four out of five people in the UK say that they would like to environmental protections maintained or strengthened.
The Government has made good commitments this year in ratifying the Paris climate agreement and protecting internationally-important seas. Ministers can now build on this good work by protecting and enhancing our natural environment at home and delivering on their manifesto promise of being the first generation to leave the natural world in a better state than which we found it.
The Greener UK coalition will now be working over the coming years to make sure the UK’s natural and cultural heritage are not sacrificed as the Government negotiates the UK’s future outside the formal institutions of EU membership.
Richard Hebditch, External Affairs Director