Ongoing uncertainty around UK environmental protection

On the anniversary of the EU referendum, Greener UK, a coalition of 13 major environmental organisations, publishes the first assessment under its comprehensive Brexit Risk Tracker, which will be regularly updated to reflect the risks to environmental policy throughout the Brexit process.


Most UK environmental protections stem from EU law. The Greener UK coalition’s [1] Risk Tracker[2] traffic light rating system shows, based on analysis of the UK government’s actions and commitments, which policy areas are more secure (green), and which are most at risk (red) from Brexit.

  • Red: air quality The government is in breach of EU air quality regulations, with UK schoolchildren in worst hit areas being kept inside at playtime on some days. The government’s latest plan has been widely criticised for not doing enough, and there is a risk that limits could be weakened after Brexit, to make it easier for the government to meet its legal requirements.
  • Red: chemicals The EU system for regulating hazardous chemicals (REACH) is the most advanced in the world, recently banning problematic substances in products as diverse as till receipts and waterproof coats. The government has not committed to staying within REACH, and the minister responsible has said the UK should not follow the EU in banning certain chemicals,[3] while the minister responsible for pesticides is reported to have called for weaker controls.
  • Green: climate & energy The government has indicated its ambition to keep the UK in the EU’s internal energy market, which would make it easier for the UK to decarbonise while keeping energy prices down. In addition, the UK has a strong domestic Climate Change Act.
  • Amber: all other policy areas. The amber ratings mostly reflect the general positive statements from government but a lack of reassurance on how all EU environmental law will be properly transposed into domestic law. There are also concerns about whether there will be adequate enforcement mechanisms after Brexit. The Repeal Bill will be responsible for all of these issues and will be the first key test of the government’s resolve.[4]