MPs must not be left in a position where progressive environmental laws could be easily watered down, weakened or even scrapped by ministers after Brexit, a Labour MP has warned.
Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy argued that “all too often” it had been the UK that had been a brake on ambitious progress on environmental matters in the European Union.
Referring to EU environmental laws, the former shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs said: “These laws are the laws that protect the air that we breathe, the seas that we swim in, the water we drink, our biodiversity, our eco systems and the stunning natural environment we so enjoy.
“They are laws that would have been made by primary legislation in the UK had it not been for our EU membership and so they should be treated in that way now.”
She said the Commons constitution committee had warned of some laws being “permanently vulnerable” to being reshaped through the use of delegated powers.
Ms McCarthy added: “We cannot be in a position where environmental laws that have helped clean up dirty beaches, set standards for our air quality and so on and often against resistance from the Government – they have had to be taken to court before these policies have been forced – we can’t be in a position where they could be watered down, weakened or even scrapped by ministers so easily.”
She acknowledged the Government had on many occasions, in response to concerns that the environment would be less protected after Brexit, said it was committed to maintaining or enhancing current levels of environmental protection.
But speaking during day two of committee stage debate in the Commons on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill she said her amendment meant “we don’t just take the Government’s word for it”.
She said: “We cannot trust ministers with unmitigated power over regulations from workers’ rights to vital environmental protections when others in this Government have a track record of weakening protections and opposing ambitious policies at EU level.”