The Government and the European Union have agreed on a deal for Brexit which would see the UK leave the union which will include a set of level playing field commitments on the environment. There is still no clarity around how the process will play out however as the deal is now subject to a vote in Parliament. If approved the UK could leave the EU on the intended deadline of 31 October 2019.
The latest revised agreement includes clauses that enable the UK to come out from all EU laws, including the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policy – which pro-Brexit groups claim have stifled productivity and economic growth for workers.
Part of the agreement on the departure from the EU customs union and the laws that it enforces is a new regulatory system that the UK will need to stick to as part of any future trade deals with EU nations. This would require the UK to conform to EU standards on environmental policies and others as part of a trade deal but with no legal obligation to maintain current standards if no trade deal is agreed.
The document includes details of numerous emissions and environmental-related standards that the UK has signed up to throughout its membership of the EU including directives on industrial emissions, transport emissions, waste, and biodiversity.
The official “Political declaration of the future relationship” states that the Parties recognise the importance of global cooperation to address issues of shared economic, environmental and social interest. The Parties should uphold the common high standards applicable in the Union and the United Kingdom at the end of the transition period in the areas of state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environment, climate change, and relevant tax matters.
The DUP immediately vetoed the deal. This move means that there are questions around whether the Government will be able to collect a majority in the House of Commons to agree the deal. Already, The leaders of the opposition took to social media to claim that the new agreement could create a ‘race to the bottom’ for key legislative frameworks, including environmental protections and regulations. With the uncertainty caused by the opposition reactions, it is unclear whether the Government will manage to secure the support it needs to pass the relevant legislation to see the UK leave the EU on 31st October 2019. One thing is for sure, Boris Johnson is in for a rough ride if he is to deliver on his pledge.