Leadsom: ‘Very clear’ goals on waste won’t be watered down by Brexit

Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom says that environmental legislation won’t be ‘watered down’ following the UK’s departure from the European Union and that the government’s ‘very clear’ goals on waste are not dependent on EU membership.

Leadsom addressed members of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) yesterday (25 October), where she answered questions about the future of the natural environment following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and repeatedly emphasised the government’s ambition to be the first generation that would “leave the environment in a better state than we found it”.

Leadsom: ‘Very clear’ goals on waste won’t be watered down by Brexit
Leadsom rejected the suggestion that without prompting from the EU the environment would fall further down the government’s agenda and asserted that environmental issues would not be “watered down” without EU legislation, telling the committee: “I do not see why… the goals of good environmental outcomes would be watered down in any way. The UK has very clear goals around issues of air quality and waste, and this is not dependent on our membership of the EU.” She added that “UK initiatives that demonstrate our commitment to the environment are not under threat, and are enhanced by our ability to take our place on the world stage”.

In fact, Leadsom, who was one of the leading figures in the campaign to leave the EU earlier this year, said that leaving the EU “gives us the chance to improve the environment and make sure our environmental legislation focuses on what is right for the UK and not what is right for 28 other member states.”

The government’s work since Brexit

The evidence given by Leadsom was the last session of the EAC’s inquiry into the post-Brexit environmental landscape. Waste Minister Therese Coffey appeared in September and said that the government’s environmental policies would be ‘focused on outcomes’, while casting doubt over her support of the EU’s resource efficiency-focused Circular Economy Package.

During yesterday’s meeting, Leadsom was asked about how the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was managing Brexit, and explained that her department was involved in “repatriating” EU legislation into UK law under the Great Repeal Bill: “We will, with the Great Repeal Bill, bring all the EU legislation under UK law so far as we are able to… and then we will be able to change, amend, appeal, strengthen at our leisure.”

She said that she believed “two-thirds of the legislation that we are intending to bring into the UK can be rolled forward with just some technical changes,” but that “roughly a third won’t, which means there will be work to do to ensure that we can make those measures continue to work once we leave the UK”.

Leadsom later said that “roughly a quarter” of EU legislation that would not be brought under UK Law, but declined to elaborate, saying only that this legislation may “require more intervention”, that difficulties may be technical, or that laws may be monitored in the EU, so there are currently “no conclusions”.

“We won’t be creating a vacuum or a void, we will be nationalising all of the EU targets so that will be the framework until or unless we decide as a government to change it. In terms of continuity for businesses, the certainty of the Great Repeal Bill will be a comfort to them.”

Smooth transition

Leadsom stated that her aims are to “see a smooth transition to the future state”, describing two separate 25 year plans for the environment and for food and farming as a key part of this, which would be looked at “within the next few months”.

When asked why two isolated plans were necessary, Leadsom responded: “The plans aim to create links between the environmental and the farming sector. One is aiming at developing an enormously successful economic sector, the other is about creating an environment that is in a better position for future generations. You can’t bring them entirely together but both plans must connect with each other.”

Committee Chair Mary Creagh asked Leadsom how the issue of accountability would be maintained with regard to new legislation without the European Court of Justice. Leadsom said: “We can’t yet give you a clear answer, that work is on-going.”

She rejected the idea of a specific UK environmental court to hold laws to account: “The UK courts have endured for many hundreds of years and we have a very clear court process that will be able to uphold the legislation that we take into UK Law through the Repeal Bill… we won’t be needing to replace European courts.”

Andrea Leadsom's evidence session on the future of the natural environment after Brexti can be seen on Parliament's video service.

Related Articles