A bill to scrap retained EU laws so they can be replaced with domestic UK regulations has been branded ‘an attack on nature’ by the Kent Wildlife Trust.
The government’s plan to revoke post-Brexit regulations will see 570 laws surrounding habitat protection, water quality and sewage pollution removed in December 2023.
The Kent Wildlife Trust says this not only puts wildlife and public health at risk, but also reneges on the government’s pledge to halt the decline of nature by 2030.
The Bill, which was put before Parliament on September 22, aims to allow ministers to replace retained EU law with new domestic legislation and will see large parts of retained EU law ‘sunsetted’ in December 2023 – meaning it will be removed.
Retained EU law currently covers most aspects of UK law that were previously influenced by EU legislation, including environmental regulation, data protection, employment law, intellectual property, financial services and competition law.
Kent Wildlife Trust says the removal of the EU laws could mean 17 specially protected sites across the county lose their status, leaving them vulnerable to development.
The Trusts says the Thanet coast and Sandwich Bay may lose its protection, potentially devastating the populations of seals and rare and endangered birds that use the area as an important resting, breeding and feeding space after long migrations.
Sites at risk of being downgraded include Oare Marshes in Faversham, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and frequented by Turtle Doves, Curlew Sandpipers and Spotted Redshanks.
In addition to the proposed changes to environmental laws, on September 23 the Chancellor published the Government’s Growth Plan, earmarking Kent County Council as one of 37 authorities being able to nominate investment zones in the county. If Kent is granted investment zone status, the Trust says it will allow developers to bypass environmental laws, further putting wildlife in jeopardy.
Kent Wildlife Trust is now asking for people to write to their MP to ask them to put a stop to the changes to legislation. People can also sign up to receive news and updates from the Trust.
Paul Hadaway, Director of Conservation at Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “To revoke much-needed legislation that protects wildlife is not only a backward step, reneging on promises made by this government, but also puts public health at risk. We simply cannot continue to ravage our natural world without realising it is our life support system.
“It is time to tell the government that their plans are a direct attack on nature, we do not want raw sewage and poisons pumped into our sea and they need to do more to protect wildlife and their habitats.
“We must give nature a voice and we need people to come together and demonstrate the sheer strength of feeling. We cannot do it alone – we need public support. This is about ensuring that we have a better future and that we can create an environment where we can survive. So please visit our website, download a template and write to your MP, as together, we can make a difference.”
Chief Executive Officer for Kent Wildlife Trust, Evan Bowen-Jones, added: “Nature isn’t an optional extra it’s a must if people are going to thrive. Restoring nature and producing our food with less chemicals will help combat climate change, help our economy, and give our children a healthier future.
“We must not let this government take us backwards at this critical point in time, when we still have a chance to prevent irreversible damage to society.”
A template letter is available on Kent Wildlife Trust’s website.
A government statement says: “Retained EU Law is a category of domestic law created at the end of the (Brexit) transition period and consists of EU-derived legislation that was preserved in our domestic legal framework by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
“Retained EU Law was never intended to sit on the statute book indefinitely. The time is now right to end the special status of retained EU Law in the UK statute book on 31st December 2023.
“The Bill will abolish this special status and will enable the Government, via Parliament, to amend more easily, repeal and replace retained EU Law. The Bill will also include a sunset date by which all remaining retained EU Law will either be repealed, or assimilated into UK domestic law. The sunset may be extended for specified pieces of retained EU Law until 2026.
“The retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill is part of the Government’s commitment to put the UK statute book on a more sustainable footing. By ending the special status of retained EU Law, we will reclaim the sovereignty of Parliament, and restore primacy to Acts of Parliament.
“The Bill will create powers to make secondary legislation so that retained EU law can be amended, repealed and replaced more easily. The Bill also takes powers to specify, after the sunset, the body of law that will continue to apply in place of retained EU law, and how it should be interpreted. Using these powers, the Government will ensure that only regulation that is fit for purpose, and suited for the UK will remain on the statute book.”
Kent County Council was named as one of 38 areas earmarked as an investment zone in Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini budget.
One of the aims is for accelerated development, meaning there will be designated development sites to release more land for housing and commercial development. The need for planning applications will be minimised and where planning applications remain necessary, they will be radically streamlined. Businesses in the designated sites will benefit from time-limited tax benefits.