The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) report calls for protections for wildlife and habitats to be safeguarded as the UK prepares to leave the EU, suggesting that the Government takes action in the early stages of the Article 50 process.
It warns that unless this is put in place, protection for Britain’s environment could end up as “zombie legislation”, with laws designed to protect the environment becoming ineffective.
It also warns that farming subsidies, including the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which makes up 50-60% of farm income, could be threatened.
Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP, said: “Changes from Brexit could put our countryside, farming and wildlife at risk. Protections for Britain’s wildlife and special places currently guaranteed under European law could end up as ‘zombie legislation’ even with the Great Repeal Bill.
“The Government should safeguard protections for Britain’s wildlife and special places in a new Environmental Protection Act.”
Creagh added: “UK farming faces significant risks – from a loss of subsidies and tariffs on farm exports to increased competition from countries with weaker food, animal welfare and environmental standards. The Government must not trade away these key protections as we leave the EU. It should also give clarity over any future farm subsidies.”
Speaking today at the Oxford Farming Conference 2017, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom vowed to scrap many EU regulations for farmers, including the EU’s ‘three-crop rule’, which ensures farmers grow a variety of crops to help maintain the environment.
Leadsom said: “In leaving the EU, we’ve been handed a once in a generation opportunity to take Britain forward; a real opportunity to thrive.
“I will be looking at scrapping the rules that hold us back, and focusing instead on what works best for the UK:
- No more 6 foot EU billboards littering the landscape.
- No more existential debates to determine what counts as a bush, a hedge, or a tree.
- And no more, ridiculous, bureaucratic three-crop rule.”
She added: “By cutting the red tape that comes out of Brussels, we will free our farmers to grow more, sell more and export more great British food – whilst upholding our high standards for plant and animal health and welfare.”
Leadsom added that her rural development programme supports rural growth, with an additional £120m set to be provided in grants. Farmers have also been guaranteed by the government to receive the same amount of subsidies until 2020.