Brexit – what will happen to the UK’s environmental policy?


By Andrew Buchan

If the UK leaves the EU what will happen to the UK’s environmental policy? This is not, as outlined below, a purely academic question.

It cropped up recently during an interview on the BBC’s Today Programme[1] between, Justin Webb (the interviewer) and Amber Rudd (the Secretary of State for the Environment).

The discussion turned to whether, in the event of Brexit, the UK might or might not repeal the UK Climate Change Act, which is the Act that requires a reduction in emissions and other measures:   

Rudd: “…when the leavers say our bills wouldn’t come down because we wouldn’t have to adopt to these agreed energy targets they are completely wrong. We already have the UK Climate Change Act which was passed in Parliament.”

Webb: “Yes, but we could change our mind, that’s the point, you’re making an assumption about what we would do if we’re out of the European Union which is effectively that we would stick with those rules. We can change our mind?”

Rudd: “No, I think you’re making an assumption that if we came out of the EU we would some how repeal the UK Climate Change Act.

Webb: “Well, we might, mightn’t we?”

Rudd: “Well that’s a completely different argument. If the leavers are saying we should repeal the UK Climate Change Act, they should say so and then explain how they are going to get the investment, what they are going to spend it on, and how many new coal fired power stations they might build…”

Was Justin Webb correct to suggest that, in the event of Brexit, the UK might repeal the UK Climate Change Act?

One of the criticisms that I have heard and share about the ‘in’ or ‘out’ debate is the lack of specificity. The fact that neither side has a detailed manifesto leads to conjecture. Nobody quite knows what will happen in the event of Brexit.

So, what is the evidence that, in the event of Brexit, the UK might want to repeal not only the Climate Change Act but many more UK Regulations on the environment?

In April 2016, Prospect Magazine published the latest research from YouGov on the issue of Brexit. YouGov listed 10 possible causes of the UK’s economic problems and asked people for their top three causes. Top of the list for the “leave” voters were “EU Rules and Regulations”[2]

In trying to ascertain what the UK’s approach to the environment will be following a Brexit, there is no point in turning to the current Government’s manifesto. This is because, if the Brexiteers gain power, they are likely to use the vote as a mandate to change any UK Regulation that arose out of EU Rules and Regulations.

They will most likely exercise their apparent new-found Parliamentary sovereignty and repeal those EU Rules and Regulations that are perceived to cause the most economic problems.

So, which EU Rules and Regulations are most likely to be repealed?

In order to identify those most at risk of repeal I am grateful to the Open Europe website which has published research entitled “Top 100 EU rules cost Britain £33.3bn”. This figure is also quoted on the “Vote Leave Campaign” website. In fact, as this research acknowledges, according to the impact assessments that were used to gather the data, those regulations also provide a total benefit of £58.6bn a year. Giving a net benefit of £25.3bn. However, that is beside the point.

Of the 100 regulations identified, 43% concern the environment. These are alleged to cost the UK £15.77bn a year (not taking into account the benefits) at 2014 prices. Below is a list of the allegedly most costly regulations. As can be seen, some of the measures listed have been put in place by the UK to curb greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and preserve public health.

The high percentage of EU Regulations (43% in the top 100) means that the environment is likely to be close to the top of any Brexit government’s hit parade.

It is, perhaps, no surprise to see Lord Lawson wearing two hats: One as Chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (a climate sceptic think tank); and the other as Chairman of the Vote Leave Campaign.

It should not be forgotten that on 27th September 2013, the UN published its landmark report into climate change compiled by 259 leading scientists, which claimed with “95 per cent” certainty that global warming is man-made. The next day, Lord Lawson published an article in the Telegraph and referred to this conclusion of the report by stating: “This is not science: it is mumbo-jumbo.”

So, Justin Webb was right to put the question to the Minister and Amber Rudd was right to respond by saying that the leavers should say what they intend to do. The question as to where Brexit would leave the UK’s Environmental policy is a live one.

There is still time for the leavers to spell out their position and put an end to this conjecture.

[1] 24th March 2016 at 7.30am

[2] The other two reasons were: immigrants willing to work for low wages and the last Labour government.

UK legislation/EU legislation
UK Renewable Energy Strategy resulting from the Renewable Energy Directive 15% target.
The EU Climate and Energy Package resulting from Directives 2009/28/EC, (Renewable Energy Directive). The EU Emissions Trading System. One of the key policies introduced by the European Union to help meet the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 8% below 1990 levels under the Kyoto Protocol
The Building and Approved Inspectors (Amendment) Regulations 2006 + The Energy Performance of Buildings (Certicates and Inspectors) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 resulting from the Directive 2010/31/EU (the energy performance of buildings directive)
The Motor Vehicles (EC Type Approval) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 resulting from Directives 2007/34/EC (noise), 2007/35/EC (lighting and light signalling devices) and
2007/37/EC (air conditioning)+
Regulations (EC) No 706/2007 (leakage detection air conditioning).
 and 715/2007 (emission limits)
The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2003 resulting from the Directive 2000/60/EC (Priority Substances Directive, amends the Environmental Quality Standards Directive)
The Motor Fuel (Road Vehicle and Mobile Machinery) Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Regulations 2012 resulting from Directive 98/70/EC (Fuel quality directive)
The Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) and Motor Fuel (Composition and Content) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 from Directive 2012/33/EU (Ship Pollution Directive)
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2006 from Directives 2002/96/EC and 2003/108/EC (Recycling electrical goods & equipment directives)
The Genetically Modied Food (England) Regulations 2004 + two other Regulations from the Regulations (EC) No 1829 & 1830/2003 (GM Food and Feed Regs)
The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2014 from EU Regulation No 421/2014 (international aviation emissions Regs)
The Non-Road Mobile Machinery (Emission of Gaseous and Particulate Pollutants) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 from Directive 2004/26/EC (Non road mobile machinery emissions Directive)
The Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2009 from Regulation (EC) No 842/2006 and ten associated EU Regulations
The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 from Directive 2010/75/EU
Eco-design Regulations from Regulation (EC) No 641/2009. Its scope currently covers more than 40 product groups (such as boilers, light-bulbs, TVs and fridges), which are responsible for around 40% of all EU greenhouse gas emissions.
The End-of-Life Vehicles (Producer Responsibility) Regulations 2005 from Directive 2000/53/EC (Recycling Waste Directive on end of life vehicles (ELV)) Every year, ELVs generate between 7 and 8 million tonnes of waste in the European Union. These Regulations aim at making dismantling and recycling of ELVs more environmentally friendly.
The Motor Vehicles (Replacement of Catalytic Converters and Pollution Control Devices) Regulations 2009 from Article 11 of Regulation (EC) No 715/2007
The Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations 2008 + The Nitrate Pollution Prevention (Amendment) and Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 from Directive 91/676/EEC (Nitrates Directive concerning the Protection of Waters against Pollution caused by Nitrates from Agricultural Sources
The Waste Management (England and Wales) Regulations 2006 from Directives 75/442/EEC (Hazardous Waste Directive) and 1999/31/EC (Waste Oils Directive)
Eco-design Regulations – Implementing measures for standby and off-mode losses from Regulation (EC) No 1275/2008 (ecodesign for standby, off mode electricity consumption of household and office electrical equipment)
Eco-design Regulations – Implementing measures for electric motors from Regulation (EC) No 640/2009
Eco-design Regulations – Implementing measures for TVs from Regulation (EC) No 642/2009
The Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010 from Directive 2008/50/EC
Eco-design Regulations – Implementing measures for air conditioners from Regulation (EU) No 206/2012
Eco-design Regulations – Implementing measures for household lamps from Regulation (EC) No 244/2009
Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of Chemicals  (2006) REACH and establishing a European Chemicals Agency from Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 (The purpose of this regulation is to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment)
The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 from Directive 2001/42/EC
The Motor Fuel (Composition and Content) and Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 from Directive 98/70/EC (as amended by Directive 2009/30/EC)
The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 from Directive 94/62/EC
The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations 2009 from Directive 2004/35/EC
The Batteries and Accumulators (Placing on the Market) Regulations 2008 + The Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009 from Directive 2006/66/EC
Eco-design Regulations – Implementing measures for tertiary lighting from Regulation (EC) No 245/2009
Eco-design Regulations – Implementing measures for simple set-top boxes from Regulation (EC) No 107/2009
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (Amendment) Regulations 2004 from Directive 2003/53/EC
Eco-design Regulations – Implementing measures for washing machines from Regulation (EU) No 1015/2010
The Pesticides (Maximum Residue Levels) (England and Wales) Regulations 2008 from Regulation (EC) No 396/2005
Eco-design Regulations – Implementing measures for external power supplies from Regulation (EC) 278/2009
The Cleaner Road Transport Vehicles Regulations 2011 from Directive 2009/33/EC
The Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2012 from Directive 2011/65/EU
The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 from Directive 2011/92/EU
The Waste (England and Wales) Regulations from 2011 Directive 2008/98/EC
Eco-design Regulations – Implementing measures for dishwashers from Regulation (EU) No 1016/2010
The Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012 from Directive 2009/128/EC