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Coffey challenged over Brexit approach

MPs assessing the implications of draft EU legislation and regulations to the UK are accusing the Government of not responding adequately to the EU’s proposed plastics strategy.

The European Scrutiny Committee (ESC) criticised resource minister Therese Coffey for having offered “no detailed analysis nor specific comment” on the European Commission’s 2030 strategy which tackles three plastic issues: high dependence on virgin fossil feedstock; the low rate of recycling and reuse of plastics; and leakage of plastics into the environment.

The Commission has set out overarching objectives such as promoting design for recyclability, boosting demand for recycled plastics and reducing single-use plastics.

In a memo, Coffey told MPs that the EU proposals “appear to be broadly consistent” with UK ambitions, including the UK objective of zero avoidable plastics waste by 2042. She is quoted as saying the detail of the proposals needs development and so it is too early to know exactly how they will fit with the UK’s plans.

The ESC’s response, contained in its latest weekly report on EU legislation, says: “The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Coffey) provides no detailed analysis nor specific comment on any of the suggestions.”

As an example, the committee warns that divergent EU and UK rules on plastic packaging could have an effect on UK industry.

It also notes a degree of similarity between the EU’s plans and those set out by the Government in its 25-year environment plan, and asks if there is benefit to identifying, and building on, potential synergies.

“We note the minister’s view that no Brexit issues arise specifically from this strategy. While we agree that the strategy is effectively a list of ideas to be taken forward separately, we dispute the contention that there are no Brexit implications.

“In our view, there are wide-ranging implications for the design of policy in the UK post-Brexit, assuming that at least some of the ideas come to fruition and assuming that some sort of co-operative and trading relationship is maintained between the UK and the EU.”

The MPs dispute Coffey’s contention that the EU proposals lack detail.

“We therefore invite the minister to revisit her assessment of the Brexit implications, setting out a headline analysis of the potential implications for the UK post-Brexit as and when the ideas put forward in the paper come to fruition.”

The ESC says it expects responses to its queries by mid-April. The issues will be shared with the Environmental Audit Committee and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

What is the ESC?

The committee assesses the legal and/or political importance of draft EU legislation deposited in Parliament by the Government. This amounts to around 1,100 documents a session. The ESC receives an explanatory memorandum on each document from the relevant minister. It then looks at the significance of the proposal and decides whether to clear the document from scrutiny or withhold clearance and ask questions of the Government.

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