Cross-party MPs – Be in no doubt: there is no such thing as a ‘green Brexit’

There is no such thing as a ‘green Brexit’, argue three leading supporters of Open Britain, ahead of a major speech on the environment by the Prime Minister. In a joint cross-party statement, Mary Creagh, Ed Davey, Caroline Lucas argue that “Brexit poses a greater challenge than any other political development that has taken place in our lifetime.”

The MPs voice concern that Brexit means “we, and the fight against climate change, will be greatly weakened by our absence” and say that “Brexit will give free reign to this or any future Government to water down our environmental standards.” Pointing to the real agenda of the hard right, they say Brexit will lead to “a tsunami of deregulation” and that the pursuit of new free trade deals “will likely force the UK to concede on environmental and other protections”. Their intervention echoes the views expressed by numerous leading figures in the environmental movement.

They also warn that “some surprising Ministers are today claiming to be great champions of the environment. But as we know only too well, the motivations and agendas of some ministers change.” Urging caution from those who have praised the Government’s environment agenda, the MPs say we “should remember that ‘hugging a husky’, soon turned into ‘green crap’”.

The signatories are:

  • Mary Creagh, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee
  • Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (2012-15)
  • Caroline Lucas, Co-leader of the Green Party

The full text of the statement is as follows:

We have heard many warm words of late from the Government on the environment. But be in no doubt: there is no such thing as a ‘green Brexit’. In fact, when it comes to managing the growing stresses on the environment, Brexit poses a greater challenge than any other political development that has taken place in our lifetime.

First, we will no longer be at the table with 27 other countries. The UK played a pivotal role in driving forward the EU’s climate change agenda. Working within the EU – as a block of 28 countries – amplified the UK’s influence and ability to secure a robust global agreement at the Paris climate change conference in 2015. We, and the fight against climate change, will now be greatly weakened by our absence.

Second, Brexit will give free reign to this or any future Government to water down our environmental standards. Currently, when the government fails to put the interests of the British people first, British people can look to international environmental law in Europe, as we have seen with British environmentalists taking the UK Government to court for breaching air pollution laws. Some surprising Ministers are today claiming to be great champions of the environment. But as we know only too well, the motivations and agendas of some ministers change. Holding government to account on the environment requires international legal protections, which Brexit leaves behind.  

Third, Brexit risks leading to a tsunami of deregulation. As the economic impacts of a hard Brexit are felt, there will be a growing political imperative to stimulate growth. Everything the hard right have long campaigned for, they will get. Remember that before we joined Europe we were known as the ‘dirty man of Europe’.

Fourth, negotiating free trade agreements without the bargaining power of 27 other economies, will likely force the UK to concede on environmental and other protections.

You won’t hear this today from the Prime Minister, of course. But the reality is that successfully, and affordably, tackling the environmental problems Britain and the world faces requires a pooling of sovereignty. The EU has helped Britain to help itself, and the rest of the world, to progress towards better protection of the environment.

There are some environmentalists who want to believe the warm words on a ‘green Brexit’. They should remember that ‘hugging a huskey’, soon turned into ‘green crap’.

/ends

Notes to Editors

Numerous leading figures in the environmental movement have expressed deep concern about the impact of Brexit.

  • “Over four decades of EU membership, Britain has acquired one of the most formidable bodies of environmental law in the world. Whether it’s air pollution, water quality, or toxic chemicals, many of the environmental safeguards protecting our health and our environment are rooted in EU law.”
    John Sauven, Chairman of Greenpeace
  • “About 70% of our environmental safeguards and legislation is European legislation – and this is now at risk.”
    Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth
  • [“Brexit] leaves me shocked, disappointed and extremely concerned about the future of environmental protections in the UK.”
    James Thornton, CEO of Client Earth
  • “Leaving the EU throws a question mark over many of the protective regulatory and legal frameworks that currently apply to UK wildlife and habitats.”
    Woodland Trust