The strong influence of the European Union on environmental law could make people question whether environmental protection issues will be covered effectively after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The environment is currently protected by a large body of EU environmental law covering areas including air quality, waste and resources, water, wildlife and habitats, chemicals and pesticides.
Our conclusion is that it’s unlikely that there will be a large drop in environmental standards as there is a large body of legislation that helps the UK deliver its international commitments.
Furthermore the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 will ensure all existing EU environmental law continues to operate in UK law.
In addition, the Government has sought to allay fears around the environmental impact of Brexit by announcing the Government’s White Paper on ‘The future relationship between the UK and the EU’, which was published in 2018. This is a commitment to maintaining high standards in environmental law through non-regression and this commitment is being progressed through legislation.
The Johnson Government continues to underline its commitment to a sustainable agenda.
Delays in processing Bills and announcing a UK Regulator
The flagship Environment Bill was supposed to establish a new enforcement structure for environmental regulations in time for the end of December, when EU rules stop applying but has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The bill is currently being commented in Parliament.
The Government has created an Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). The OEP will monitor the Government’s progress towards improving the natural environment and will investigate complaints regarding failures of public bodies to comply with environmental law.
Ministers promised the OEP would be independent, however amendments are being muted to grant the Government Ministers powers to “advise” the new OEP body. Due to the delays, it is probable that Britain will be left without an environmental watchdog at the end of the Brexit transition period.
The Environment Bill proposes changes to UK legislation to strengthen and clarify requirements relating to the National Air Quality Strategy, local air quality action plans and enforcement of smoke control areas.
Some environmental law, which originated in European legislation, has been implemented through national legislation and statutory instruments have been made to correct any deficiencies which would otherwise have arisen as a result of the UK leaving the EU.
There are pieces of existing legislation in the UK which give significant recognition to the importance of air quality and other environmental protection issues.
These include the Climate Change Act 2008, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 and the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It would be possible for legislation to be amended or repealed, but developments such as proposals for a UK wide emissions trading system, designed by the UK Government, jointly with the Welsh Government, Scottish Government, and Northern Ireland Executive, to replace the EU system, and steps such as declarations by local authorities of climate change emergencies, with associated action plans, suggests that environmental issues will continue to be prominent in the UK.
The effect of devolution may mean that different areas of the UK could have different types and levels of protection for the environment, if devolved administrations progress legislation with a different pace and focus from those of the UK Government.
MAPP are working closely with our Environmental, Public Health and Air Hygiene Consultants on the UK’s direction in this area to review any required change in current processes.
Although the UK is still pushing to recycle more and use less resources, the disposal of waste in a managed and sustainable way remains a priority.
The shortfall in UK processing capacity, particularly Energy from Waste (EfW), means we currently rely heavily on exporting it to the EU, where EfW capacity is greater and technology more advanced.
The UK waste management industry is likely to be significantly impacted by changes to export tariffs and new legislation governing waste exports. In October 2020 the Government published a guide to exporting after the UK leaves the European Union. Read it here.
The Government’s document covers the import and export of goods between the UK and the EU, and what will change when the transition period ends. It includes advice on the movement of waste, as well as information on the documentation required for HGV drivers, which could impact Refuse Derived Fuel exporters and some recycling exports.
For waste exports from the UK from 1 January 2021, the rules for shipping non-notified waste ‘Green List’ waste for recycling will remain unchanged. There will however be additional requirements on exports of notified waste ‘Amber List’ from the UK to the EU.
The UK is a party to the Basel Convention and a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the UK will therefore be treated in the same way as any other OECD country or any country party to the Basel convention that intends to import waste from an EU country.
This means exporters will need to contact the authority responsible for waste in the country they are transporting waste to or through in order to find out about the authorisation process.
For notified waste shipments from the UK to the EU, exporters should continue to follow the requirements set out in the EU customs guidelines. There is concern amongst industry that this could lead to longer time periods and extra costs due to the additional checks and balances.
Whilst there remains uncertainty around how we will trade with the EU from next year, MAPP are constantly reviewing with its Waste Brokers and Suppliers the risks to our clients and are actively working to ensure that our supply chain partners are proactively managing the risk within their own business.
As the impact of leaving the EU becomes more visible and certain, we will continue to re-evaluate the service provisions available to our clients and advise on the most viable options to manage the inevitable legal administration and tariff changes that are likely to create cost increases.
The regulatory oversight of the quality of drinking water in England and Wales is not expected to be compromised in any way as a result of Brexit. The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) for England and Wales has published a new Position Paper on the status of drinking water quality in England and Wales as the UK exits from the European Union. Read it here.
The paper sets out how the DWI will continue to uphold drinking water standards and ensure that consumers of public water supplies in England and Wales continue to have access to safe and clean drinking water as the UK leaves the EU.
Pointing out that consumers of drinking water in England and Wales enjoy some of the highest quality water in the world, the paper says:
“The DWI does not expect the departure from the European Union to compromise this in any way.”
The primary legislation setting out the Inspectorate’s functions and duties is contained in the Water Industry Act 1991 – water supply matters are also devolved to the Welsh Government by means of the Government of Wales Act 1998.
Standards for drinking water in the UK were originally transposed from the European Drinking Water Directive. Equivalent legislation and regulators exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The MAPP Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) and Procurement team continue to review the likely effects of Brexit with its Environmental, Public Health and Air Hygiene consultants.
MAPP are members of the Institute of Environmental Management and the Better Buildings Partnership – Property Industry Forum who are keeping abreast of the risks and changes.
Our facilities and site teams continue to be briefed on the expected changes by the Senior Executive Head of Facilities Management and Head of Procurement. We will continue to receive changes.