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Defra 'engaged with circular economy package'

Defra has told the industry that it will continue to negotiate the circular economy (CE) package in Brussels despite the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

The department held a meeting with stakeholders on 15 July, which some had expected to be cancelled, amid a reshuffle of ministers following Theresa May becoming Prime Minister.

Andrea Leadsom had only just been appointed as Defra secretary at the time of the meeting so discussions were limited regarding the department’s long-term policy.

The department’s resources minister Rory Stewart also switched to the department for international development (DFID) as part of the cabinet reshuffles, with Thérèse Coffey his likely replacement.

An attendee told MRW that Defra’s four representatives at the meeting were unclear on whether it would continue to engage with the package after Article 50 had been triggered to initiate the UK’s exit proceedings.

They said little more information was given and there were “as many questions as there are answers at the moment”.

However the department clarified to MRW that it would continue its negotiations on the circular economy package while the UK remained in the EU.

“Until the exit negotiations are concluded we remain a full member of the European Union. We will continue to implement and apply any EU legislation that is made during that period,” a spokesperson said.

The Green Alliance’s senior representative in Brussels Simon Wilson believes the UK should continue to engage with the package because the new framework for a relationship with the EU is unknown.

“It is undisputed, though, that we will need to continue trading with our European neighbours, whether it secures close integration through some kind of association agreement, or even a worst case World Trade Organisation-only scenario,” he said in a recent blog. 

“Under any scenario, ensuring that Britain is ahead of the curve on the CE would be a no-regrets option, for companies and for politicians.”

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