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Pledge to deliver ‘green’ Brexit has not been met, say environmentalists

CONCERNS: Land use only gets an ‘amber’ rating.

The “green Brexit” promised by the Government has not been delivered, with weaker protections in areas such as nature and air quality, campaigners said.

But there is still a chance to enhance environmental protections, the Greener UK coalition of UK green groups said as it issued its final “report card” in a series of assessments on Brexit.

Greener UK has been tracking progress on the pledge, outlined by then environment secretary Michael Gove in 2017, to deliver a green Brexit, and Government promises to maintain and enhance environmental protections.

Michael Gove  pledged to maintain environmental protections.

Its final analysis finds that protections on climate, farming, fisheries and water quality are similar to 2016, but are weaker than they were for chemicals, nature, air quality and waste.

Greener UK said that while the promise of a green Brexit had not been met, there was still time for plans to be strengthened, including via the much-delayed Environment Bill and farming reforms which are still being finalised.

The coalition, which includes The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and environmental law charity ClientEarth, warned new bodies enforcing rules on air pollution and water quality are set to be less independent and weaker than under the EU system, and environmental principles are being watered down.

And the Government’s desire to retain the option to diverge from EU rules has undermined co-operation and raised the risk of deregulation in areas such as chemicals, which could put the public and environment at risk, the groups said.

There are positives from Brexit, including the Government’s ambition to transform farming policy in England by replacing the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy with a system that pays land managers for providing public goods such as flood protection and habitat for nature, they said.

But the report card gives land use only an “amber” in its traffic light ratings because of uncertainties over its delivery and an “unconvincing commitment” to maintaining standards on imported foods which could undermine the good work being done by British farmers.

Sarah Williams, of Greener UK, said: “There is still time for the Government to make its plans stronger, particularly for chemicals and air pollution, and follow through on promising proposals for farming. We really hope it does so.”

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