Credit: Jay Allen

What did a UK government spokesperson just tell the Guardian?!

Last week the Guardian ran a story about how the UK is flouting its duty to protect its citizens from toxic air pollution.

The article followed comments from a UN expert and a number of serious legal defeats for the British government for its failure to meet air pollution limits set in European Union laws.

These EU protections offer hope to citizens and campaigners concerned about the harmful levels of toxic pollution in the air we breathe and a legal route to ensure governments do something about them.

So Guardian readers must have been shocked to read the following:

A government spokeswoman said Brexit represented an opportunity to improve the UK’s air quality standards. “EU policies, from the common agricultural policy to vehicle emissions tests, have damaged the environment.”

The average environmentalists’ distaste for the EU’s flagship farming policy is no secret and the failure of laboratory-based tests that were being actively cheated is well documented.

Yet campaigners say that the Government is using criticism of these policies to distract from the UK’s failure on air pollution. EEB Policy Officer on Air Pollution, Margherita Tolotto said:

“This is like a teacher complaining about the curriculum while her students are stuck in a burning classroom. Whatever you think about the CAP or emissions testing doesn’t change the fact that there is dangerous levels of air pollution in cities across the UK and EU protections are being ignored.”

In fact, the UK has consistently acted to weaken environmental protections and undermine stricter standards proposed at the EU level. Many even believe that EU environmental protections may be strengthened once the UK’s voice is locked out of the negotiating room.

Last year Theresa may promised a “red, white and blue Brexit”.

So people that care about the environment will be pleased to learn that the spokesperson also added another colour to the Brexit palette:

“We now have an opportunity to deliver a green Brexit, ensuring the UK is a global leader in environmental protection”