Brexit: environment and climate change Contents

Chapter 7: Influence

Influencing the EU

136.As we have seen, the UK may want, or need, to comply with the same or equivalent environmental standards and policies as the EU. On that basis, as Ms Cunningham noted, it is almost certain that the UK will have a continuing interest in “making sure that we do not just have to abide by the rules of the Single Market but also have a say in shaping them.”227

137.Dan Lewis, Infrastructure Policy Adviser at the Institute of Directors, argued: “If you are in a situation where you have no control over the policies, the regulations and the standards, but you have the legal obligations and the budgetary contributions, that is not a very good place to be.”228 The Aldersgate Group noted that “the UK will remain heavily exposed to EU targets and policy initiatives priorities”, and that it will be desirable “to retain UK influence in helping to shape them.”229 More specifically, the Mineral Products Association told us:

“It will be important for the UK to retain influence on the development of [EU] standards so that UK industry: 1) is not isolated from European or international best practice; 2) does not have need to comply with multiple or disparate standards for market access; and 3) is subject to consistent regulatory costs compared to businesses operating in other countries.”230

138.On the other hand, many witnesses were concerned that Brexit would lead to some loss of UK influence. The CLA told us that “Outside the EU the UK would lose its ability to influence the legislative agenda which may result in increased environmental obligations”.231 Similarly, Mr Andrews stated: “At the moment central and eastern European Member States in particular have very high emissions of pollution. We will no longer be at the table and able to influence those Member States in bringing down their pollution.”232

139.Ms Mukherjee developed the point:

“Without those conversations that happen at European Commission special interest or expert committee meetings that we have access to at the moment, which we will not in the future, without the international research projects that go on and in the coffee-break moments that you have that are so important, I think we lose an awful lot by not being at the table and actually not even being in the room.”233

140.While some loss of influence may be unavoidable, we heard about a number of issues on which it would be particularly important for the UK to retain a measure of influence, both during withdrawal negotiations and beyond. Mr Elliott mentioned the current review of REACH: “I am exaggerating a little, but not much—it is 27 countries versus one in the way this is being approached, with the one being the UK. If that one voice is lost, we could end up with every substance categorised as either a known endocrine disruptor or a suspected endocrine disruptor.”234 The CLA gave another example, noting that “the UK was one of the countries most opposed to the Commission’s proposal for a Soil Directive … Without the UK, opposition would be reduced and chances of a Soil Directive becoming law increase.”235

Influence during Brexit negotiations

141.The Minister, Dr Coffey, assured us that “we will continue to [participate in EU policy formation and negotiation] as long as we are full members of the European Union”.236 Mr Elliott, though, told us that the UK’s influence on EU policy was already declining: “We are already picking up intelligence that either the UK’s voice is not being listened to or our representatives are being less encouraged to speak up on certain dossiers.”237

Influence after Brexit

142.In the longer term, we heard that there might be ways to preserve some degree of informal influence in the EU on environmental matters. Mr Jacobs pointed out that “European environmental organisations collaborate with one another a lot … particularly in western and northern Europe.”238 He saw no reason for UK organisations to be excluded: “UK environmental organisations, which are particularly strong, well organised, and so on, could be a very important part of that.”239 The Society for the Environment agreed: “The Society will continue to pursue our European partnerships on that basis and we would be pleased to assist the Government in helping to maintain relationships between environmentalists and decision makers across the EU”.240

143.Industry representatives were also keen to continue to participate in European networks. Mr Elliott told us that Brexit “makes it all the more important for us to keep networked with our continental European headquarter businesses and others to keep the pressure up from other member states on the things where we agree.”241 Ms Elliott agreed.242 Ms Mukherjee highlighted the importance of EurEau, the European federation of water industries: “We have a lot of conversations between the Commission officials and EurEau.”243

144.Dr Coffey agreed that there would be fewer formal influencing opportunities for the UK, but emphasised the UK’s wider diplomacy: “Just like Norway and the US have embassies in Brussels and are very proactive in their engagement with the EU, I fully expect the United Kingdom to be so. Of course, we also have wider relationships through the Council of Europe, which also has quite a lot of environmental angles to it.”244

145.The UK will have much less formal influence, post-Brexit, on the shape of the EU environmental standards, regulations and initiatives to which it may be exposed, and with which it may need to comply in order to trade with the EU.

146.After Brexit the UK will, however, continue to have the opportunity to continue to influence EU environmental policy by a range of informal means, including UK trade associations and NGOs maintaining close contact with and membership of their European pressure groups. The Government should encourage, and where possible facilitate, the exercise of this informal influence coherently and constructively. Therefore, in tandem with withdrawal negotiations, the Government should review the alternative means by which the UK may be able to influence the EU’s environmental and climate change policies where they will affect the UK.

147.The UK will remain a full EU Member State until withdrawal is complete. We urge the Government to continue to engage fully and constructively in negotiating and seeking to influence EU environmental proposals for the full term of the UK’s EU membership.

International influence on climate change

148.The challenge of climate change is most effectively combated by means of co-ordinated global action. The UK currently participates in those global discussions through the EU. Indeed, the UK, within the wider EU, is currently viewed as a global leader on climate change. But Mr Ward warned that one of the downsides of Brexit would be that in future “the UK will participate in international negotiations as an independent state rather than as part of the EU bloc. That seems likely, and that will make it less influential”.245 Ms Cunningham agreed: “The UK or Scotland, acting alone, will not be able to achieve the same impact as the EU in these global negotiations.”246

149.This begs the question of whether the UK could ‘team up’ with a different group of nations post-Brexit. Mr Jacobs noted that Norway, for instance, “is not part of the EU negotiating bloc; it is part of the umbrella group which includes the US, Canada, Australia and Japan”.247 Other witnesses identified other negotiating blocs that had been effective in driving ambitious climate action, such as the Environmental Integrity Group,248 the Clean Energy Ministerial,249 the High Ambition Coalition,250 and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.251

150.Commenting on the climate change negotiating blocs that the UK may wish to join post-Brexit, the Minister, Dr Norman, told us that it was “too early to decide what specific relationships we will want to have”.252 He reiterated the Government’s intention to be a leader on environmental issues and to continue to be part of the UN process,253 and acknowledged that “we are well known around the world for the relationships we have with the international groupings”.254 While the UK “might decide … to affiliate with, or indeed form, new groupings”, it was “quite premature to speculate about that at this stage”.255

151.Witnesses also discussed other ways for the UK to continue to take a leadership role in relation to climate change. The Aldersgate Group suggested that the Government “pro-actively engage in international climate change discussions and prioritise climate change as a topic of positive engagement with the new US Administration”.256 The Aldersgate Group also noted that the UK had been influential in international climate change negotiations, suggesting that after Brexit the UK should build on “the expertise of its international climate team and network of climate attachés within BEIS and the FCO”.257

152.Dr Parr pointed out the opportunity for the UK to influence global action by taking an ambitious stance itself, thereby “demonstrating to others the possibilities whilst simultaneously generating employment in the UK”.258 Similarly, Jonathan Gaventa, Director at E3G, suggested the UK could influence global action by taking a leadership role:

“As part of the Paris Agreement, countries will need to develop mid-century decarbonisation plans … There is an opportunity to make that plan not just a box-ticking exercise but something that can become a template and a diplomatic asset with other countries globally about how such exercises are performed.”259

153.The Minister, Dr Norman, was confident that there would be a role for the UK in continuing to influence global climate action.260

154.The UK in isolation is likely to have less influence in global negotiations, including on climate change, than it currently possesses as part of the EU.

155.The UK is currently viewed as a global leader on climate action. In order to preserve this status, and to offset any potential loss of influence after Brexit, the Government should seek to align the UK to other regional and thematic negotiating blocs with which it shares policy goals. The UK should also make use of all other tools, including its diplomatic relationships, so as to continue to influence global action on climate change, but this will be dependent on the UK continuing to pursue leading climate actions itself.

227 Written evidence from the Scottish Government (ECB0012)

229 Written evidence from the Aldersgate Group (ECB0009)

230 Written evidence from the Mineral Products Association (ECB0005)

231 Written evidence from the CLA (ECB0001)

235 Written evidence from the CLA (ECB0001)

240 Written evidence from the CLA (ECB0011)

246 Written evidence from the Scottish Government (ECB0012)

248 Q 43 (Prof Michael Grubb)

249 Q 44 (Bob Ward). This is global forum of private, public and non-governmental organisations designed to promote policies and share best practices to accelerate the global transition to clean energy.

251 Written evidence from the Grantham Institute (ECB0004)

256 Written evidence from the Aldersgate Group (ECB0009)

257 Written evidence from the Aldersgate Group (ECB0009)

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