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Analysis

Peers see through Gove’s ‘green Brexit’ spin

by Luke Lythgoe | 17.05.2018

The House of Lords has seen through the environment secretary’s flimflam about building a “green and pleasant land” post-Brexit.

Central to Michael Gove’s “green Brexit” vision was supposed to be a world-leading environmental watchdog. But his initial proposals triggered an eleventh-hour amendment to the government’s EU Withdrawal Bill yesterday, led by former Tory environment secretary John Gummer (Lord Deben).

The government has only confirmed the new watchdog will be able to issue “advisory” notices when environmental standards are breached – although it says this is “as a minimum”. It has also yet to decide whether key EU environmental principles will be explicitly set out in legislation.

Environmentalists are critical of Gove’s proposals for the watchdog. Tom West, a lawyer for ClientEarth described it as a “toothless body that is seriously lacking in legal punch”. There’s also concern that others in government, particularly the Treasury, may resist investing in strong environmental protections.

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If MPs agree the Lords’ amendment, we’ll get a new watchdog that polices environmental standards at the current EU level or better – although Gove may seek to head off opposition by giving his own watchdog more teeth.  

Gove’s new eco-warrior routine is one of the few areas of Brexit where this otherwise shambolic government is doing a fairly decent PR job. But Brexit means that if any UK government did want to water down environmental policies then the EU would have much less power to stop them. Recent examples of the UK trying to fudge climate change targets and failing to tackle air pollution show this is a problem even now.

Even if Gove and his successors had the best intentions, environmental issues like sustainable fishing, air pollution or plastic waste all cross national borders. That means they are best tackled together with like-minded neighbours. Brexit will make this cooperation harder.

If the public are concerned about how green and pleasant our land really will be after leaving the EU, they should have a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

One Response to “Peers see through Gove’s ‘green Brexit’ spin”

  • IMHO, Gove is following the path of his leader, promising the earth, while ensuring that nothing of substance happens.
    He will continue to procrastinate and make encouraging noises, while killing off any opportunity for cooperation with the EU, on any environmental controls.
    Gove and May have the same attitude to the EU, as trump has to the policies of Obama. NIMBY, countrywide, will be her mantra.
    Like trump refuses to recognise or support anything Obama put in place. May will not countenance anything the EU has provided being continued in the UK.
    Who will stop her???????????????????????