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Analysis

Brex on the beach? It could get filthy

by Joel Baccas | 12.07.2019

Summer is here. Who’s going to the beach? Thanks to EU law, you can be safe in the knowledge that you and your family will be taking a dip in clean coastal waters.

In the 1970s the EU introduced rules to help boost the quality of our beaches. The Bathing Water Directive required all EU member countries to reduce and prevent pollution of bathing water and be able to inform bathers of the degree of pollution that did exist. A minimum standard was laid down but – as with other EU standards – countries were also free to fix more stringent targets.

The rules were then updated in 2006 with a new Directive. This aimed to provide clearer and more detailed advice on water quality, requiring member states to regularly monitor locations and use scientific developments to give better and earlier information. Helpful signs were launched to indicate “poor”, “sufficient”, “good” and “excellent” bathing spots.

Thanks to these measures, coupled with the Water Framework Directive which established better protection of water, European bathers can depend on high quality waters free from faecal contamination, germs, waste and other pollution. 

July 20th
Park Lane, London

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Every year the European Commission publishes a summary report on the quality of bathing water, based on the reports that the member states submit before the start of each bathing season. Reports on individual EU countries are also available. Want to have quick information on the status of your favourite bathing spot? Check out this interactive map.

Back in the 1970s the UK was branded the “dirty man of Europe” partly due to the state of its beaches. No one is saying the dirty beaches will definitely return. But after Brexit, without the threat of large fines for breaching EU standards and an independent EU regulator monitoring the water for us, quality could drop. Laws replicating EU protections will be copied over into UK law on Brexit day but, without an EU trade deal specifically prohibiting it, there’s nothing to stop a future government or parliament watering down our bathing water standards.

And of course the next government will likely to be headed by Boris Johnson. His track record on standing by his environmental principles are hardly impressive: this was the man willing to “lie down in front of those bulldozers” to stop the building of Heathrow’s third runway, before vanishing on the day of the crucial Commons vote.

A faecal-matter-free ocean dip is just one of many reasons to join us on July 20 to say “No to Boris, yes to Europe”. After all, no one wants to sell seashells on a dirty seashore!

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

2 Responses to “Brex on the beach? It could get filthy”

  • So why wasn’t this clearly mentioned as one of the benefits of EU membership? Probably because the Brexit cattle doesn’t care where they drop their filth! Have a look at the waste flung away along the roads in this country and just ask yourself the question if a mentally decently developed person, who in all likelihood would have known about the benefits of the EU and the way the EU at least forced the UK to keep its bathing water along the coast up to scratch, and therefore wouldn’t have voted to leave! So the article does actually predict a potentially very seriously negative development.

  • “So why wasn’t this clearly mentioned as one of the benefits of EU membership?”

    The UK has been bashing the EU for years and years. To admit you have been wrong, well that takes a special kind of person.