A report by the UK’s Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology suggests that under the Withdrawal Agreement, a set of EU environmental principles will need to be incorporated into the UK’s legislation. Among the principles referred to, is the precautionary principle, preventive action, rectification at source and the polluter pays principle. Principles stemming from the Aarhus convention are also included: public access to environmental information, participation in decision-making and access to justice in regard to environmental matters.
The report presents the EU’s ban on genetically modified crops and neonicotinoids (pesticides associated with the decline in bee populations), where the precautionary principle has been invoked. Both cases demonstrate the far-reaching impact the precautionary principle could have on trade and the maintenance of a level playing field in the future EU-UK relationship.
The application and interpretation of these principles will be determined to a large extent by the UK’s Environmental Principles and Governance Bill, for which a government proposal is expected in the next six months.
However, the report puts up questions about the enforcement. According to the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales, the watchdog as proposed in Defra’s consultation on the Bill would lack equivalent powers to those of the European Commission.