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‘No environmental case’ for EU exit

No environmental case for leaving the EU has been made, according to a group of specialist MPs at Westminster.

There has been little planning from Defra for a potential exit from the EU, according to the Environmental Audit committee (EAC), with the Government expecting a “long and tortuous” negotiation in the case of a ‘no’ vote on 23 June.

The MPs’ report, EU and UK Environmental Policy, while not being unanimous, said most witnesses questioned felt there were still “significant benefits” to tackling the industry’s problems unilaterally.

It said many contributors believed the UK would set “less stringent” environmental standards if it were free to set its own laws after leaving the EU.

The report said the UK would still have to comply with some aspects of EU environmental legislation were it to leave, but would not be able to influence the laws.

“Despite the key role the EU has played in UK environmental policy, relatively little appears to have been done by way of planning in the case of the UK leaving.

“None of the witnesses to our inquiry made an environmental case for leaving the EU. The Government’s view is that this would trigger a ‘long and tortuous’ negotiation.”

It said the majority of concerns about EU environmental policy were about their implementation by member states.

EAC chair Mary Creagh is a supporter of the Labour Party’s campaign to remain in the EU. But one committee member, Conservative MP Peter Lilley, refused to sign the report.

The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management said its views chimed with the conclusions and evidence submitted by other stakeholders.

CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said: “Not only has EU policy both underpinned improvements in our environmental performance and benefitted from our presence in its formulation, but it has also provided the stability and vision that has allowed us to be one of the most dynamic and fast-growing sectors during the challenging economic conditions of the past 10 years.

”With so much more potential to deliver on jobs, green growth, business productivity and competitiveness, the UK must at least maintain the momentum and direction of travel set by the EU, regardless of the outcome of the referendum in June.”

In March, an All Party Parliamentary Environment Group report warned that the impact on environmental policy of the UK voting to leave the EU “should not be underestimated”.

“Unavoidable uncertainty and disruption” would be created in the short term by a ’no’ vote, hitting investor confidence, it argued.

Packaging firm DS Smith argued that there was “too much national latitude … in the interpretation of some waste and recycling legislation [regarding the] separate collections of recyclables””

UK local authorities have been able to opt out of providing segregated collections for recyclable materials, where it is not technically, environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP).

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