The House of Lords has defeated the Government by voting to insist that environmental standards are maintained after Brexit.
Peers voted by 294 to 244 for an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, explained on the Parliament website as being designed to “ensure environmental law is complied with”.
Environment secretary Michael Gove earlier this month launched a consultation on creating a body to oversee environmental law, which would monitor the UK’s compliance with its legal commitments on waste management.
But crossbench peer Lord Krebs, moving the winning amendment, said Gove’s consultation paper was unsatisfactory and “does not go far enough”.
He said: “We have heard many times that the purpose of the Bill is to ensure that everything is the same the day after Brexit as it was the day before yet, for environmental protection, things will not be the same.
“That is because, although the rules for protecting our environment will be translated into UK legislation, crucially, the environmental principles underpinning those rules will not and, furthermore, the current mechanisms for enforcing the rules will disappear and not be replaced.”
Speaking for the Government, Lord Callanan said: “We have endeavoured to provide as much transparency as possible to our plan for ensuring environmental protections are enhanced and strengthened, not weakened, as we leave the EU.”
The Government can either accept the Lords’ amendment or seek to overturn it when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.
Campaign group Client Earth’s law and policy adviser Tom West welcomed the vote.
“Ministers have shown a worrying lack of ambition to defend our environment after Brexit,” he said.
“Without strong laws and the infrastructure to police them properly, turning back the clock on 40 years of gains from the EU becomes a very real risk for the UK’s environmental protections.”