The Great Repeal White Paper - what it means for the environment

The day after the Prime Minister triggered Article 50, a White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill was published, setting out the Government’s approach to converting existing EU law into domestic law on the day we leave the European Union.

The paper states that it aims to give maximum legal certainty for businesses, workers and investors and sets out how the Great Repeal Bill will deliver a smooth and orderly exit, by:

  • repealing the European Communities Act 1972 — returning power to UK elected representatives and institutions;
  • converting EU law into domestic law at the point of departure — giving certainty and allowing any changes to be made in a sensible, timely and considered fashion; and
  • correcting EU law that will not function as it is converted into UK law — ensuring the statute book operates effectively.

This process will ensure that the same rules and laws will apply after we leave the EU as they did before, from the moment we leave. After the UK has left the EU and sovereignty has returned to the UK Parliament, it will be able to decide which elements of law to keep, change or repeal.

But what does it mean for the environment? 

This is the relevant section:

The Government is committed to ensuring that we become the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.

The UK’s current legislative framework at national, EU and international level has delivered tangible environmental benefits, such as cleaner rivers and reductions in emissions of sulphur dioxide and ozone depleting substances emissions. Many existing environmental laws also enshrine standards that affect the trade in products and substances across different markets, within the EU as well as internationally. The Great Repeal Bill will ensure that the whole body of existing EU environmental law continues to have effect in UK law. This will provide businesses and stakeholders with maximum certainty as we leave the EU. We will then have the opportunity, over time, to ensure our legislative framework is outcome driven and delivers on our overall commitment to improve the environment within a generation. The Government recognises the need to consult on future changes to the regulatory frameworks, including through parliamentary scrutiny.

LARAC is encouraged by the expressed willingness to consult and is heartened by the level of contact so far exhibited by DEFRA. We look forward to future opportunities to share knowledge and hope we can work together to truly 'leave the environment in a better state than we found it'.