Vital environmental protections at risk from Brexit says resigning McCarthy

Food waste bill given second reading
Kerry McCarthy
The vote to leave the European Union has provided a great challenge for addressing critical environmental issues, says Kerry McCarthy, who has quit as Shadow Environment Secretary.

McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, delivered her letter of resignation to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday (26 June), in which she criticised his leadership through the EU referendum process.

In the letter she wrote: ‘Many of the critical issues handled by the Department [for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)] are intrinsically linked with our membership of the European Union: CAP payments, the Nature Directives, implementing the EU Circular Economy Package.

‘The referendum result was a huge disappointment, and now we face the challenge of negotiating our future relationship with the rest of Europe. Vital protections won through our EU membership must not be jettisoned.’

Following the referendum result, Corbyn has been put under increasing pressure to step down from many Labour MPs for what they see as indecisive leadership in the run-up to the vote. McCarthy is one of over 12 members of the Shadow Cabinet, representing nearly half of the total, to have resigned in the past few days and says that strong leadership is needed to overcome the challenges facing the environment and government. Her resignation announcement has met with much criticism on the Labour Defra Facebook page.

‘Although I do not doubt your personal commitment to your long-held principles,’ she wrote in her letter to Corbyn, ‘I believe that a new leader is needed to take on the challenges ahead; steering our way through the very difficult period facing this country: exerting a decisive influence on the post-referendum negotiations; and winning broad-based electoral support.’

McCarthy was appointed as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs in September, as part of Corbyn’s first Shadow Cabinet following his election as party leader.

Since taking up the position, she has introduced and championed a Food Waste (Reduction) Bill that would bring in legislation compelling supermarkets to donate unsold food and report their food waste arisings, much like a law that has been implemented in France.

Although the bill was given a second reading, it was not heard on its scheduled date of 29 January, and was missed again in March. McCarthy said at the time that she was ‘disappointed, though not surprised’ that government had objected to a second reading of the bill, which was drafted by a cross-party committee.

Maskell takes over role

Rachael Maskell
Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central, has been named as McCarthy’s successor in the role.

Maskell, who won her seat in last year’s general election, has been serving as a shadow defence minister under Shadow Secretary of State for Defence Maria Eagle since September.

Prior to becoming an MP, Maskell worked for the National Health Service for 20 years as a care-worker and physiotherapist and has also been a trade union official. Last year, Maskell also sat on the Health Select Committee.

To see how members of the waste and resource industry reacted to the Brexit vote, see our updated comment story from Friday.

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