Press releases

Environmental Law will Pose Immense Challenges in Run Up to Brexit

Environmental Law will Pose Immense Challenges in Run Up to Brexit

The following is a joint press release from the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA) and E3G.


The full complexity of rolling-over environmental law after withdrawal from the European Union was highlighted at a press conference given by UKELA and E3G today in London.

Introducing five reports on Brexit and Environmental Law, Professor Richard Macrory QC CBE, co-chair of the Brexit Task Force set up by UKELA, said:

“The Government’s response to date on enforcement has frankly been unimaginative and minimalist. They will be placing great reliance on judicial review, which alone is a blunt instrument.”

Tom Burke CBE, Chairman of the climate change think tank E3G, said:

“A job I do not envy at the moment is being a Parliamentary draftsman. The legislative programme will be fantastically complex, and mistakes will inevitably be made.”

Andrew Bryce, co-chair of the UKELA Brexit Task Force, added:

“UKELA’s reports will be as practical as possible. They will be living instruments and we will be updating them as events unfold.”

At the event, UKELA outlined the first five in a series of reports which it will be publishing over the coming months. These are:

  • Brexit and Environmental Law: The UK and International Environmental Law after Brexit. This report analyses over 40 international environmental agreements to which the UK is a party – some currently within the exclusive competence of the EU, some wholly the UK, and many so-called ‘mixed competence agreements’.
  • Brexit and Environmental Law: Enforcement and Political Accountability Issues. This report considers the extent to which legal and political accountability mechanisms will continue after Brexit. Even if the Government succeeds in its intention of maintaining the substance of existing EU environmental law within our national system there are significant features of current arrangements for ensuring accountability and compliance which will not necessarily be replicated.
  • Brexit and Environmental Law: Environmental Standard Setting Outside the EU. EU environmental law will continue to evolve after Brexit. This report considers the approach that the UK government and devolved administrations should take to setting and revising environmental standards after withdrawal from the EU.
  • Brexit and Environmental law: The UK and European Environmental Bodies. This report identifies over 20 environmental cooperation bodies, networks and other groups relevant to the implementation, review or operation of environmental law in the EU. It examines the specific responsibilities of each body, the potential regulatory ‘hole’ that would be left if the UK ceased to have membership and the implications this would have for wider environmental governance. The report considers the value of remaining associated with each body post-Brexit and whether this would be legally possible.
  • Brexit and Environmental Law: Exit from the Euratom Treaty and its Environmental Implications. A secure future for the nuclear industry in Britain depends upon provisions of the Euratom Treaty. This paper sets out the risks that departure from Euratom poses for the UK’s continued involvement with nuclear regulatory bodies, external relations with third-party states under Nuclear Co-operation Agreements and for meeting imminent deadlines from international convention review mechanisms.

UKELA announced that it would also provide informed commentary on the environmental provisions in the Repeal Bill throughout its passage through Parliament, identifying legal ‘pinch points’ which will require extra attention.

UKELA was also pleased to announce a major conference in October 2017 chaired by a Supreme Court judge, with panellists including senior government lawyers and leading practitioners.


Notes to Editors

[1] The UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA) is the foremost body of environmental lawyers in the UK. It is composed of 1,200 academics, barristers, solicitors, consultants, and judges involved in the practice, study and formulation of environmental law across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. UKELA aims to promote better law for the environment and to improve understanding and awareness of environmental law.

[2] UKELA remained neutral on the Brexit Referendum. UKELA’s full position on Brexit can be found on there site.

[3] UKELA’s Brexit Task Force was established in September 2016 to advise on all matters relating to and arising from the UK’s decision to leave the European Union insofar as this impacts environmental law, practice and enforcement in the UK. The 27 members of the Task Force include experienced environmental law solicitors and barristers, legal academics, and members of the judiciary with representation from all the UK jurisdictions.

[4] The Brexit Task Force has been examining the legal and technical implications of separating our domestic environmental laws from the European Union and the means by which a smooth transition can be achieved. The Task Force aims to inform the debate on the effect that withdrawal from the EU and draw attention to potential problem which may arise.

[5] E3G is an independent climate change think tank operating to accelerate the global transition to a low carbon economy. E3G specialises in climate diplomacy, climate risk, energy policy and climate finance.

[6] In 2016, E3G was ranked the number one environmental think tank in the UK by the Go To Think Tank Index, third in Europe and fifth in the World.


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