Green Brexit fails to arrive

Air quality, nature restoration and chemical regulations are among the environmental protection that are static or weaker since Brexit despite government pledges.

Britain has equal or weaker protections for the environment despite loud promises for a ‘Green Brexit’, a new report has found.

Air pollution, nature restoration and chemical regulation are among the areas facing lower standards as a result of Brexit, found the coalition of green groups, Greener UK, which has been tracking the strength of environmental standards in the UK since Brexit.

In its eleventh and final ‘risk tracker’ report, the coalition, which includes The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and environmental lawyers ClientEarth, found that the government’s landmark promise to ‘maintain and enhance’ protections has not been met.

In 2017, then Defra Secretary Michael Gove put the principle of a ‘green Brexit’ at the heart of government policy, a pledge welcomed by campaigners and citizens.

But, according to the Greener UK risk tracker, protections for climate, farming, fisheries and water quality are judged similar to 2016; for chemicals, nature, air quality and waste, they are weaker now than they were before.

One reason for the lack of progress or reversal of standards is the introduction of new regulation bodies, including the Office for Environmental Protection, which are set to be less independent and weaker than those they are replacing, Greener UK said.

Secondly, the UK government’s desire to diverge from EU rules has “left holes in existing standards” and a lack of cooperation. This includes things from carbon pricing to wildlife protection, and the decision to leave the EU’s gold standard chemical regulation system, EU REACH. The UK has instead created its own domestic version with fewer staff, less funding and restricted access to existing data.

Head of Greener UK, Sarah Williams, said: “The government said Brexit would see improved environmental standards, but laws that protect people and nature are set to be weaker now than they were before.

“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.”

Environmental principles covering nature restoration and chemicals are weaker since Brexit. Image Tejvan Pettinger/Flickr. 

The coalition did identify some areas of potential progress, such as the overhaul of farming policy that aims to base subsidies on provision of habitats and clean water. Similarly, while the Fisheries Bill does not prevent overfishing in UK waters, there are potential improvements in sustainability and monitoring activities at sea that give cause for optimism, the coalition said.

In conclusion, the coalition said while the promise of a green Brexit has not been met, there is time for it to be achieved, using the delayed Environment Bill to address some of the key concerns.

“We were solemnly promised that the UK would maintain and enhance our environmental standards after Brexit,” said chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, Craig Bennett. “Although that might have happened in some areas, massive gaps have opened up as a result of this process – and enforcement is weaker across the board.

“To take a few of many examples, it is a disgrace that many of our offshore Marine Protected Areas are still being damaged through trawling and dredging, and that our rivers are still routinely polluted – harming wildlife and dirtying our drinking water.”

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB, said: “We are in a nature and climate emergency. The UK’s wildlife is in freefall and needs urgent action. What we were promised was a Green Brexit with protections at least as strong if not stronger than those that applied before Brexit – what we have seen so far suggests a legacy of weakening many of the policies, regulations and legislation we urgently need.

“If our Prime Minister wants to back up his bold and ambitious statements to other world leaders, then it must start with an Environment Bill that tackles the nature crisis on our own doorstep.

“We stand at a crossroads to either revive our world or risk losing our wildlife and special places. We need the environmental protections in place to halt the trajectory of decline and enable nature’s restoration.”


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  1. How anyone could have expected anything different from this sorry government is beyond me. The only promises they ever deliver on are those made to the cronies in the ERG.

    1. Yes I agree. It seems that all we can do is keep on supporting ethical companies- like Riverford- and maxxing our support for the Wildlife Trusts and all the other groups like Wild Justice… there are many people working their socks off for biodiversity, against pollution and fossil fuels. Buy only organic and we can become a force……

    2. Jennyh


      Yes, did anybody really believe their hollow promises, all of them lies to get elected. This Government has no idea or desire to start repairing our damaged ecosystem, we will all feel the pain of this incompetance.

  2. Isn’t it nice to see that the “Rejoiners” have something more to moan about? Let’s fae it no matter what the present government did it would be wrong in some eyes – they have decided that way before anything has been even talked about yet alone done.

    Can we all remember that at the moment this government and the governments of the world are up again’t something far more important than looking after various small animals and other species. Yes I’m talking about the Corona Virus – if that takes hold, even now there is a chance this could happen, you can make all the laws (which are after all nothing but words uttered by various “experts” (ex is a has been spurt is a drip under pressure) as a possible means to live by. they can and often are altered at the drop of a hat at the whim of many with little thought about the consequences. As I said IF that takes hold properly we are all doomed – BREXITEERS and ReJoiners alike.

    OK I agree that at the moment things are not that which has been promised, both by THIS government and the so called European Union on the other side of the fence as it were. But there again neither was th pandemic – so can we please just give it a little time (oh sorry I forgot all the young things of the world [as usual] want everything now!) and then perhaps we can get down to sorting the rest of the problems out. Please do not rant and rave about how nobody is doing what you want – now. Amazingly enough they are trying their best! Now lets us have a little bit of Democracy here – strange thing Democracy – people vote to do a certain thing and the “party” (i.e. the people) with the most votes gets to do things that way – the others accept it in the spirit of the thing.

    1. Have you read the article? We used to have this protection and now we don‘t because the laws that Government has put in place so far instead of the EU laws are weaker and if nobody speaks out it will get worse.
      This has nothing to do with the pandemic and, no, the EU is not in the same boat – they still have their laws.

      And what do you think you will achieve with slagging off young people in general? Given that you haven‘t properly read the article maybe I should tell you to go find your reading glasses….

    2. Walrus, does it not worry you that this is a statement of intent from the current Government?
      When you talk about Democracy, it was the Conservative’s promise that these green standards would be maintained or enhanced, so is that not a direct failure to uphold the values of democracy?

    3. Of course it does not worry me – much – after all I, like many others know that the average so called “statement of intent” is another way of saying “please ignore what I am saying it is only said to keep some people quiet and has no fact in it”. Until such time as things start to be done everything should be taken with a shovelful of salt at best! If you look carefully at any and all utterances from government [not just this government either] you will observe that they are trying to close down things like Democracy as quickly as possible – what I am trying to do is remind people that we are SUPPOSED to be part of a DEMOCRACY and that the people at least try to live by those standards

    4. So on the one hand you’re arguing that we should wait to see what the government actually do, but on the other hand you’re saying that they’re shutting down our Democracy.

      It seems like you’re simultaneously defending the government and their actions while also attacking them?

    5. Your words not mine – as you sem to know more than me please carry on having this argument with yourself

    6. haha, as much as I like the sound of my own voice, I was just trying to work out what you meant!

    7. There’s time to do a reorganisation of the NHS in a pandemic though! Of course they can do what they promised. It’s all about their priorities.


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