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Reassurances over Brexit and the environment are “worth nothing” without new legislation, MPs warn

Image credit: Lewis Whyld/PA

Reassurances over Brexit and the environment are “worth nothing” without new legislation, MPs warn

Reassurances from Michael Gove over the effect of leaving the EU on the environment are “worth nothing” until the UK Government enacts new legislation to replace European protections, a group of MPs has warned.

A cross-party group of 74 MPs and peers used an open letter, organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Air Pollution, to express concern over the prospect of Brexit leading to weakened environmental protection.

Urging the UK Government to create a new Clean Air Act, chair of the APPG Geraint Davies said Gove’s response to motor manufacturers who have cheated emissions tests “doesn’t wash”, while calling for the industry to pay for a clean air fund.

He said: “Mr Gove talks the talk very impressively. But assurances are worth nothing until they are enacted.

“If there’s no deal, then the UK will be on a cliff edge in March. The government failed to meet existing standards, but it will no longer be able to be taken to court.

“It could easily pass the buck to local councils to transfer responsibility to them for tackling illegal air pollution."

The European Commission recently confirmed it will take legal action against the UK over its longstanding failure to meet legal air pollution limits.

Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said the EC would take the UK to the Court of Justice of the EU for its failure to respect limit values for nitrogen dioxide, and for failing to respond appropriately to the problem.

Responding to the open letter, a spokesperson for the Environment Secretary told the BBC: “We will set out new primary legislation to secure a more coherent legislative framework for action to tackle air pollution.

“This will be underpinned by new England-wide powers to control major sources of air pollution plus new local powers to take action in areas with a problem.

"The government has launched a consultation on our proposals to establish a new, independent, statutory body to hold government to account on environmental standards once we have left the European Union, and on a new policy statement on environmental principles to apply following EU Exit.

“We are consulting as widely as possible in order to gather views on different models and options before making any final decisions.”

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