The government’s White Paper on Brexit was published on 2nd February 2017. It has confirmed plans to transpose the current framework of environmental regulation set out in EU (European Union) legislation into UK law. The document, entitled ‘The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union’ was published by the Department for Exiting the European Union, and sets out the government’s vision ahead of the negotiations.

Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis said: “The White Paper confirms the Prime Minister’s vision of an independent, truly global UK and an ambitious future relationship with the EU.”

Whilst the document does not give detail on specific measures relating to a number of policy areas, it does confirm that environmental measures which have been underpinned by existing EU legislation, will continue to apply following the UK’s departure from the EU.

The Government has expressed its commitment to ensuring that the current generation becomes the first to leave the environment in a better state than it inherited. The Great Repeal Bill will be utilised to bring the current framework of environmental regulation into UK and devolved law.

The Great Repeal Bill, which was announced to Parliament in October, aims to return power to UK institutions whilst preserving the legal position as it is at the point of exit. This will mean that existing targets and commitments set out in pieces of EU legislation such as the Waste Framework, Packaging and Packaging Waste or Landfill Directives will continue to apply at least until the government has put in place alternative legislation to pursue a its own course on such matters. That said, Lord Deben has suggested the UK “won’t ask questions” about waste in order to guarantee trade after Brexit which is a disappointing standpoint.

The timing of upcoming EU legislation will need to be considered closely by UK businesses as if this is implemented before the end of the two-year withdrawal process, it will remain among the provisions to be brought into UK law via the Great Repeal Bill. It is therefore vital to ensure that companies are both resourced and ready to meet these requirements on current and upcoming legislation as Brexit is not going to remove the need to comply as has previously been suggested.

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