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Government warned of Brexit threat to waste industry

Brexit could be damaging for waste businesses by threatening their trade links with the EU, the Government has been warned.

The House of Lords’ EU energy and environment sub-committee has published a report, Brexit: environment and climate change, which analyses what the Government must do to ensure environmental protections are not eroded.

One of the key challenges, it concludes, will be navigating the Great Repeal Bill, “given the complex and extensive nature of environmental legislation”.

A potential vacuum in the enforcement of environment legislation once the European Commission and Court of Justice of the European Union no longer have a role is noted, echoing a recent conclusion in a report by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas.

The Lords report suggests the UK could co-ordinate environmental standards with the EU to enable continued trade, and wants the UK to explore ways to maintain its influence in future climate negotiations.

On waste, it warns: “Any restrictions, or the imposition of tariffs, on the UK’s trade with the EU in recycling and waste could significantly increase the costs of waste management post-Brexit.

“Once the UK Government has clarified the details of the free trade agreement it is seeking with the EU, the Government, in consultation with industry, will need to assess whether its approach to waste management is still feasible and fit for purpose.”

Committee chairman Lord Teverson (pictured) said: “It is important that, post-Brexit, we still find some way of working together.”

Environmental Services Association executive director Jacob Hayler and resources minister Therese Coffey both told the sub-committee’s inquiry that the definitions of waste in EU legislation were “operationally unhelpful and restrict positive action”.

Defra’s submission said the department had a “significant challenge” transferring more than 1,100 core pieces of directly applicable EU legislation.

It added: “But where laws need to be fixed, that’s what the Government will do. We will provide more detail on the Repeal Bill in due course.”

Responding to the report, ESA policy adviser Roy Hathaway said: “If our withdrawal from the EU means that the circular economy package will not apply to the UK, it will be vital that a long-term strategy is developed here in the UK to put in its place, to drive future investment in the sector.

“Much will depend on how the Government takes forward its industrial strategy and 25-year environmental plan.”

In her report, Lucas called for a new Environmental Protection Act and a ‘green guarantee’ that confirms scrutiny on environmental legislation’s passage into the UK.

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