Protecting Ireland’s environment needs to be written into Brexit, say environmentalists

Over 100 environmental groups in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are calling for environmental protections on the entire island of Ireland to be maintained post-Brexit.

The Environmental Pillar, who represent environmental NGOs in the Republic, and their equivalent north of the border Northern Ireland Environment Link have released a briefing document which outlines the need to maintain vital environmental protections.

The current Withdrawal text includes very scant reference to maintaining the existing environmental standards between the EU and the United Kingdom.

Environmental groups are extremely concerned that the Brexit agreement will allow for the dumbing down of standards that will impact wildlife, water, and other key standards.

In their Brexit Briefing they state:

“The UK’s scheduled exit from the EU in March 2019 poses significant challenges to environmental governance and hence to this trade relationship. Indeed, nowhere in Europe will the environmental impacts of Brexit be felt more keenly. Post-Brexit, there is a serious risk of divergence in core environmental standards coupled with a major environmental governance gap in Northern Ireland.”

They add:

“Without sufficient safeguards there is a major risk of environmental dumping and reduced standards of protection post-Brexit, with future administrations in Belfast or in Dublin put under pressure to undercut one other based on divergence in the robustness of implementation, compliance checking or enforcement.”

The environmental groups outlined their key demands for the forthcoming ‘Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relationship’:

  • A level playing field for environmental standards, based on a set of substantive rules anchored in EU law and covering core requirements in relation to, inter alia, nature protection, water quality, air quality, waste management and environmental assessment;
  • Clear commitments binding both parties with respect to mechanisms for the effective oversight and enforcement of environmental standards in their respective jurisdictions, including guarantees on access to environmental justice and a proper complaints mechanism for citizens and civil society organisations;
  • An agreement on dispute settlement which covers all of the environment-related provisions, including legally binding decisions and sanctions in cases of non-compliance.