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Frustration after Defra stonewalls over environmental health

Stuart Spear11/01/2018 - 15:09

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Tim Farron championing environmental health
Tim Farron championing environmental health

Defra’s failure to assure Parliament over environmental health standards post Brexit has prompted former leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron to call for a debate on the issue.

Mr Farron’s frustration with the government follows him not getting a satisfactory response despite repeatedly asking Defra for assurances that leaving the European Union will not result in a degradation existing environmental health standards in the UK.

Mr Farron told EHN: ‘I am deeply concerned about the future of environmental health in the UK once we have left the European Union.  The government is dancing round the issue rather than addressing it head on. 

There should be a commitment from the government to ensure that current EU environmental health laws are maintained post-Brexit, to ensure that the high standards we currently enjoy are not removed.’

Mr Farron tabled five parliamentary questions on 27 November for the secretary of state for environment food and rural affairs calling for assurances that environmental health standards are to be maintained.

Defra was asked to provide assurances that it would consult with EHPs over the UK’s departure from Europe and whether any assessment had been made of current EU environmental health standards and where improvements could be made.

The Defra minister was also asked to commit to not degrading environmental health standards as a consequence of doing trade deals with non-EU countries and whether any assessment had been made on the impact of UK food imports and exports to and from the EU if no trade deal is agreed.

To each question environment minister Therese Coffey provided a non-committal response stating that the UK was committed to delivering a ‘green Brexit’ and that it was ‘proposing to consult on the creation of a new policy statement in environmental principles to apply after we leave the EU,’ and that the ‘UK plans to uphold its international obligations’.

She also reiterated the government mantra that the European Union (Withdrawal Bill) will ensure the whole body of existing environmental law will continue to effect UK law.

Frustrated by DEFRA’s stonewalling Mr Farron has now sponsored an Early Day Motion calling on the government to ‘work with environmental health professionals and ensure that when legislation is repatriated into UK law following Brexit, environmental and public health standards are maintained and where necessary strengthened, and not undermined by new international trade agreements.’

An EDM is a parliamentary mechanism by which a Member of Parliament can call attention to an issue of concern resulting in a parliamentary debate if enough fellow MPs sign the motion.

The EDM also warns of the ‘need to maintain and build on food, environmental and public health standards in the UK’ and that ‘the UK’s future departure from the EU raises significant questions on the maintenance of these standards in the long term.’

The EDM has so far attracted 19 signatures. 


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