MPs Warn of Brexit's Threat to UK Wildlife and Farming

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Brexit could endanger the UK’s wildlife and farming, with key protections left as “zombie legislation” and farmers facing a “triple jeopardy” of lost subsidies, export tariffs, and increased competition, according to a a cross-party committee of MPs.

A new report from the Environmental Audit Committee has warned that many of the rules on food production and the UK environment derive from EU law and weakened rules would damage the countryside and result in reduced viability of farms, food security, and safety.

The MPs said that if the government is to meet its manifesto commitment to “be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it,” ministers must be committed to passing a new Environmental Protection Act before article 50 and the formal process of exiting the EU.

MPs added that the lack of reassurance that farmers would receive subsidies after 2020 from Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom was of concern. The report also recommended that new subsidy regime should focus less on direct income support to farmers but more on delivering public goods, such as preventing flooding, tackling climate change, and boosting wildlife.

Mary Creagh, chair of the environmental audit committee (EAC), said: “Changes from Brexit could put our countryside, farming, and wildlife at risk.”

She added that it was imperative for food, animal welfare, and environmental standards to be maintained as the UK seeks new trade deals with other countries. “The government must not trade away these key protections [and] it should also give clarity over any future farm subsidies.”

The EAC said that without pre-emptive action, these rules would end up as “zombie legislation”, where there will be no body to enforce them, no updates, and they will be easily eroded by ministers via parliamentary statutory instruments, which receive minimal scrutiny from MPs.

Even if the UK remains in the single market, the MPs said crucial EU directives, including those protecting habitats, birds, and beaches, would have to be replaced as they are excluded from that agreement. Creagh said: “The government should safeguard protections for Britain’s wildlife and special places in a new Environmental Protection Act.”

A government spokeswoman said: “The UK has a long history of wildlife and environmental protection and we are committed to safeguarding and improving these, securing the best deal for Britain as we leave the EU.”