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Defra condemned for lack of EU exit plan

Defra has been slammed for its lack of planning for the EU exit, with former environment shadow secretary Kerry McCarthy describing a “shocking degree of complacency”.

Labour MP for Bristol East, McCarthy (pictured) expressed disappointment at the department’s response to her questions about the effect of the UK leaving the union on environmental issues including waste.

Meanwhile, foreign secretary Philip Hammond has told MPs that civil servants were told not to draw up contingency plans before the referendum, largely for fear that leaked documents would have promoted accusations of scaremongering.

National media has reported frustration across all sectors since the referendum about an apparent lack of post-Brexit planning in Whitehall.

The waste industry has warned that a Defra policy vacuum could become even greater without EU legislation, such as the proposed circular economy package, driving UK laws.

Stuart Hayward-Higham, technical director at Suez, has been tweeting about the dangers of a policy void (see below).

McCarthy had asked Defra to share its impact assessment of an EU exit on a range on environmental issues.

Minister George Eustice said in response that current arrangements for environmental issues would remain in place until we leave the EU, which McCarthy regarded as an unsatisfactory answer.

“I got one answer back that basically said everything remains in place and the negotiations are up to the future prime minister, which to me shows a shocking degree of complacency,” she said in a Commons debate the following day.

“Defra, almost more than any other department, will be affected by Brexit, and I am not reassured by what I have heard this morning that that work has started.”

To this Eustice responded: “The Government put forward an assessment of the potential impacts of leaving the EU, which was hotly debated during the referendum.

“Ultimately, the British public made an assessment of what they wanted to do, and the assessment is that they want to leave the EU. The job of the Government now is to implement that decision.”

In a separate Commons debate, Hammond said he was warned against sharing the likely impacts of a Leave vote as this could be considered scaremongering.

It is understood that only limited contingency planning took place between the Treasury and the Bank of England to deal with the immediate financial shock of a Leave vote.

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