Hilary Benn - Member of Parliament for Leeds Central
Many constituents have contacted me about environmental protections and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.
I agree that leaving the EU must not lead to any watering down of existing standards on the environment and I share the concerns that the EU Withdrawal Bill does not fully provide for the transfer of environmental protections. I’ve therefore consistently supported amendments to this Bill designed to safeguard environmental standards.
The Government has announced a consultation on environmental principles and governance after EU Exit, which closes on 2 August 2018. The proposals in this consultation are disappointing. The proposed watchdog is a toothless imitation of current EU institutions, which will advise and lay reports to Parliament with formal action only at the end of numerous bureaucratic hoops.
As you may be aware, Lord Krebs moved an amendment during third reading of the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords which sought to ensure the UK’s withdrawal from the EU does not result in a weakening of standards to protect our environment. I very much welcome this amendment and will be voting to keep it in the Bill.
However, the Government did not support the amendment, arguing that it comes ahead of the outcome of the consultation. The idea that a consultation will deliver a new environmental watchdog with some teeth – even though that is not in the consultation – is nonsense.
I remain concerned that EU-derived environmental protections and standards are at risk and additional steps must be taken to secure the future of our environment and the natural world and to guard against Brexit being used to undermine hard-won environmental gains.
Any environmental amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill must be sufficiently robust so as not to risk leaving both our principle and governance mechanisms weaker on exit from the EU. I will support amendments to this Bill and other pieces of Brexit legislation which seek to ensure that environmental standards are properly protected and are not watered down after we have left the EU.
MP for Leeds Central