The House of Lords’ EU Energy and Environment sub-committee has called on the Government to provide clarity urgently on the post-Brexit trade arrangements for waste and the UK’s future policy direction.
Lord Teverson (pictured), chairman of the committee, has written to Defra minister Therese Coffey, setting out the key issues that were identified at an evidence session on 22 November, involving various representatives of the waste industry.
The committee heard that if it becomes more difficult and costly to export waste, it could result in more being sent to landfill in the UK, illegally dumped or being exported to non-EU countries with lower environmental standards.
In the letter, Teverson said that ”Brexit could provide real and positive opportunities for the UK’s trade in waste”, but added that ”the industry needs certainty in order to be able to plan and invest”.
He wrote: ”Without a clear statement on the Government’s future intentions – in relation to recycling targets, regulations on product design, the adoption of the circular economy package and extended producer responsibilities, for example – the industry cannot predict, or prepare for, future demand.”
Also highlighted was the fact that these issues “have been made more pressing due to the current situation with China”. The letter said the recently announced restrictions on waste imports to China would put increased pressure on the UK’s waste industry, making the need for clarity on the impact of Brexit even greater.
Teverson said: “We invite Dr Thérèse Coffey MP to address the concerns that were raised during the discussion and look forward to hearing how the Government plans to tackle this pressing issue.”
Potential impacts of Brexit – as identified by witnesses at the EU Energy and Environment sub-committee evidence session
Introduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers. If it becomes more difficult and costly to export waste then it could result in more waste being sent to landfill in the UK, illegally dumped or being exported to non-EU countries with lower environmental standards.
The UK developing its own waste policies. Opportunities for the UK Government to develop policies that would support the waste management industry and improve environmental standards, but also concerns that policy divergence could make the trade in waste more difficult. Being part of the EU has provided long-term certainty for the industry in terms of policy direction; leaving the EU removes this certainty.
Restrictions on the movement of labour. This was identified as a significant business risk for some companies, both in terms of restrictions on their ability to move highly specialist staff between operating bases in different countries and in terms of reliance on lower skilled labour from other EU countries.
The UK no longer being able to accept imports of waste from EU countries. EU regulations prohibit member states exporting waste for disposal outside of the EU, and members heard that this would pose significant problems for the Republic of Ireland in particular, which currently exports about 40% of its hazardous waste to the UK.
On Gibraltar, which is heavily reliant on being able to export waste to Spain.
On the legal framework. As well as the need to transcribe EU legislation into UK law, the committee heard that UK courts often refer to EU jurisprudence when considering legal cases.