Snubbing Theresa May’s Chequers plan could lead to “disaster” for the environment, Green groups warn

Written by Nicholas Mairs on 15 October 2018 in News

Greener UK chair Shaun Spiers said: “There is now a real danger that the UK will leave the EU without a deal or consciously pivot towards countries with lower environmental standards.”

Michael Gove - Image credit: STEFAN WERMUTH/WPA Rota/Press Association Images

Snubbing Theresa May’s Chequers Brexit plan for a Canada-style trade deal could lead to “disaster” for the environment, green groups have warned Michael Gove.

A host of environmental organisations have said loosening ties with the European Union risks a lowering in standards on food safety and animal welfare, since Britain could be forced to adopt different rules by other countries to win new trade agreements.

Greener UK has warned Environment Secretary Michael Gove that while May's Chequers agreement represents the “green Brexit” promised by ministers, a Canada-style solution put forward by eurosceptics risked a “dirty Brexit”.

The group, which also includes the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, has previously backed Gove on his Agriculture Bill, which committed to keeping high standards after Brexit, while the industry widely supported the 25-year environment plan.

In a letter to The Times, Greener UK chair Shaun Spiers said: “There is now a real danger that the UK will leave the EU without a deal or consciously pivot towards countries with lower environmental standards.”

He added that a Canada-style deal “advocates weaker regulation of chemicals and lower standards of food safety and animal welfare. It would be a disaster for the environment.”

Under May’s Chequers plan the UK would continue to abide by the EU’s rules on goods, and therefore its high EU standards.

The group fears that pulling away from the bloc entirely however could open Britain up to products such as chlorinated chicken from the United States.

Craig Bennett, the chief executive of Friends of the Earth told the paper: “Michael Gove and Theresa May have both previously solemnly promised to maintain and enhance environmental protections as we Brexit, and that is the promise we intend to hold them to whether we end up with no-deal, Chequers, Canada, Norway or Timbuktu.”

Tony Juniper, executive director at WWF, said: “Should the UK be set to have a future relationship with the EU that is comparable to that of Canada, then any claim of a green Brexit will require not only continued implementation of European rules but a major step up in the power and ambition of domestic environmental legislation.”

John Sauven, Greenpeace UK executive director, said exiting the bloc without a deal could leave a “post-Brexit bonfire of environmental regulations” as part of a “desperate scramble to sign trade deals”.

“Deals that would open the door to a dirty Brexit include sacrifices on animal welfare, and poor food and environmental standards not allowed in the EU,” he said.

"The Government have promised a green Brexit — they will be held to account if they fail to deliver it.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We have been clear that in all scenarios we will deliver a green Brexit where environmental standards are not only maintained, but enhanced.”

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