Public Release: 

Constitutional uncertainty and political disputes put Green Brexit at risk, research shows

University of Sheffield

A Green Brexit could be under threat without greater cooperation between devolved nations and the UK government, a study led by the University of Sheffield has found.

The Brexit and Environment network spent a year researching the implications of Brexit for environmental policy, working closely with stakeholders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In a suite of reports published today (10 October 2018), they identify a set of key challenges that threaten the delivery of a Green Brexit.

Key findings include:

  • Brexit preparations threaten the common environmental ambitions that currently unite the Scottish, Welsh and UK governments, heightening the risk that the environment will be downgraded on the policy agenda.
  • The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wants to co-design policy, but the experience of the devolved nations is that they are given little notice of announcements and have limited opportunities to shape policy.
  • There is concern that future trade deals will limit the ability of devolved governments to devise their own policies, for example on the use of Genetically Modified Organisms.
  • Stakeholders are worried that the new environmental watchdog will be an English body with insufficient interest in or understanding of the devolved nations.
  • There is deep concern that the ability of the devolved nations to engage in innovative and ambitious policy-making will be undermined by Brexit.
  • Northern Ireland risks being excluded from the post-Brexit environmental settlement because currently it has no voice. This matters because Northern Ireland shares many cross-border environmental challenges with Ireland but has a history of relatively weak environmental governance.

Professor Charlotte Burns, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Politics and lead author of the UK report, said: "It is clear that there is ambition across the UK to maintain and enhance environmental standards once the UK leaves the EU. But stakeholders in the devolved nations are concerned that their ability to innovate and devise policies that suit their local circumstances will be eroded post-Brexit.

"The governments of the UK need to work together more effectively and in a genuinely consultative manner. This will ensure that if environmental policies do diverge after Brexit day, they do so as part of a coordinated race to the top rather than an ad hoc race to the bottom."

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The reports can be found at: https://www.brexitenvironment.co.uk/policy-briefs/,

For further information please contact: Hannah Postles, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 222 1046 or email h.postles@sheffield.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

Brexit and Environment

Brexit and Environment is a network of independent researchers from across the UK and the EU working on projects related to Brexit and the environment. These reports are the product of a UK in a Changing Europe Brexit Priority Grant. Professor Charlotte Burns is research leader on the grant and founding co-chair of the Brexit and Environment Network.

Charlotte Burns is a professorial fellow in sustainable growth at the University of Sheffield, and research leader on a UK in a Changing Europe Brexit Priority Grant investigating the impact of Brexit upon environmental policy and governance.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world's leading universities.

A member of the UK's prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in. Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

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