EU Referendum: Energy and Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:58 pm on 12th July 2016.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change 12:58 pm, 12th July 2016

No, I will not.

The fact is that fish and birds and insects do not carry passports; pollution is oblivious to the strictures of national airspace or inshore waters. If we wish to manage all of these, whether as pests, problems or resources, then it is better to do so in concert with our regional neighbours. The vote to leave the EU has made that harder. The Government must outline how they propose to overcome that problem.

The Environment Secretary told the House last week that the subject of continued subsidies to farmers up to 2020

“is not a decision I can make at this stage.”—[Official Report, 7 July 2016;
Vol. 612, c. 1028.]

Surely it is a decision that should have been made long before anyone asked farmers to vote to leave the EU. Much of the subsidy that farmers receive is for environmental stewardship schemes and other land management practices that benefit biodiversity and wildlife. To turn round to farmers now and say that the £3.5 billion total of subsidy that used to flow each year from the EU into their pockets is no longer secure is not just an attack on farmers’ livelihoods; it is an attack on all the work that farmers do to enhance our environment and protect our landscapes.

These are not abstract challenges. Managing the risks born of the uncertainty from the referendum outcome is a responsibility for Government. Ministers must urgently identify any legislative gaps in environmental protection that may arise from the removal of EU law, and develop plans to replace any protections so that the UK does not become a riskier, unhealthier or more polluted place to live in or do business in.