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Analysis

Don’t buy May’s Blue Planet Brexit

by Luke Lythgoe | 11.01.2018

Theresa May has promised “global leadership” in tackling the plague of plastic that pollutes our oceans. She insists that this “great environmental scourge” is of personal long-term interest to her. Then why can’t she be honest, and admit Britain is better leading the environmental charge from within the EU?

The UN has described marine plastic pollution as a “planetary crisis” causing irreparable damage to ocean ecosystems critical to life on earth. Eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean each year, with enough from the UK alone to fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls. It’s not just that 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles die from eating plastic litter each year. Plastic also breaks down into toxic microplastics, which work their way up the food chain, poisoning marine life and ultimately end up being eaten by humans.

This challenge must be tackled at a global level. Ocean currents sweep plastics around the world – just look at the plastic-choked Midway Atoll, thousands of miles from any large landmass.

EU membership amplifies Britain’s voice on global environmental issues. Take global warming, Britain played a major role as part of the bloc in securing the Paris climate accord of 2015. Whatever the UK persuades the EU to agree must then be adopted by 27 other nations. As the world’s largest economy, with a market of 500 million consumers, the EU has the clout to exert considerable economic and diplomatic pressure on other countries to follow its environmental line.

It is therefore disingenuous for May to claim Brexit as an “opportunity” to “strengthen and enhance our environmental protections”. Nothing May proposed today – plastic-free aisles in supermarkets, extending the 5p plastic bag charge, encouraging manufacturers’ to reduce plastic use – couldn’t have been done from within the EU. May even acknowledged in her speech that the UK regularly goes beyond the EU’s rules on environmental issues, though she didn’t mention that the EU is currently considering its own plastic tax

The BBC’s recent Blue Planet II series has generated vast interest from the public. Voters clearly care a lot about the environment. They shouldn’t believe the prime minister’s hogwash about a Green Brexit. If Britain really wants to be a “force for good in the world”, as the prime minister claims she does, the best policy is to stay in the EU and use it as a platform to campaign for a green and blue planet.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

3 Responses to “Don’t buy May’s Blue Planet Brexit”

  • What are you afraid of? May being on to a good thing? There is already a working enzyme that destroys plastic and which will be able to fulfill a vital role in waste management. Do a little more research won’t you.

  • If May and the Tories were serious about environmental concerns, they wouldn’t be supporting fracking with the enthusiasm that they do. They are being nothing short of duplicitous, trying desperately to appear green, to attract votes, when they are too busy subsidising the fossil fuels industries through tax breaks and governmental support. If the Tories were genuine about the plastics issue, then why set a target completion of 2042? Too little, too late and nothing more than a distraction and a PR exercise, so that May can say she did something positive rather than just be known for the disaster which is Brexit.

  • Wonderful. Please, please tell us more. “An enzyme which breaks down plastic.” Huhmm ! Which plastic ? into what ? How would it be applied to the oceans ? what cost ? by whom ? Com’on….. you must have thought this through.