PRESS RELEASE: New Seanad Report on Brexit’s threat to the environment welcomed by environmental groups

Immediate Release
Ireland’s leading environmental coalition welcomes the Seanad’s calls for concrete action to ensure environmental regulation remains rigorous across the island of Ireland in a post-Brexit world.
A new Seanad report – Brexit: Implications and Potential Solutions – calls for Ireland to be “considered a single bio-geographic unit” amid fears that UK and EU regulation in this area “may fall out-of-sync” once Brexit negotiations are concluded. [1]

The Environmental Pillar – a coalition of 26 environmental organisations – also applauds the decision of the Seanad Special Select Committee on Brexit to seek a debate on the report as there has been little discussion of environmental protection in the context of Brexit to date.

The report is now set to be discussed in the Seanad at 2PM tomorrow afternoon, 12 July 2017.

The report also states that the Irish government must work more closely with partners in the North, UK and EU member states to “enable effective long-term management of the environment”.

Central to this is to ensure that environmental regulation is aligned between Ireland and Northern Ireland post-Brexit, the report finds.

The report continues that this could be reinforced by stipulating in negotiations that the UK must adhere to European environmental law standards to gain access to the Single Market.

The Committee has previously heard from an extensive panel of experts, including the Environmental Pillar and the Norther Ireland Environmental Link – who together represent almost 100 environmental organisations on the island of Ireland. [2]

Both groups wrote to the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator Michael Barnier this week [3] outlining concerns about the impact of Brexit on “crucial cross-border cooperation” and calling for the island of Ireland to be recognised as a “single bio-geographic unit”.

The letter reiterates the findings of the Seanad report that environmental standards must remain aligned across the island of Ireland.

The letter also calls for the need to avoid a “hard environmental border” which would undermine decades of progress in addressing a range of environmental issues.

“Any future divergence or lowering of standards on either side of the border would be bad for the environment, bad for citizens, and bad for business,” the letter continues, with both groups requesting a meeting with Mr Barnier to further discuss the issue.

MEPs, legal experts and environmental groups outlined the potential weakening of legislative protection for nature as the single greatest environmental risk posed by Brexit at a recent conference in the border town of Dundalk. [4]

There are currently over 650 pieces of EU legislation in force to protect the environment, habitats, air quality, waste, food safety and a myriad of other areas. [5]

These laws and regulations are the principal drivers for the vast majority of environmental protection in place in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Coordinator of the Environmental Pillar, Michael Ewing, said:

“It will be vital in a post-Brexit environment to ensure on-going cross-border environmental cooperation as nature does not recognise national boundaries.
“The challenges for the environment on both sides of the border, such as biodiversity loss, climate change, air and water quality remain the same now as before the UK voted to leave the EU.
“It is crucial therefore that the island of Ireland is considered as a single bio-geographic unit and that effective mechanisms exist to resolve and manage cross border environmental issues post Brexit.

“We in the Environmental Pillar and our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Environment Link are therefore committed to working with our respective governments to ensure the best outcomes for our shared environment.

“Many environmental organisations have the experience and expertise to offer assistance in the time ahead and look forward to working on a local, regional, national and all-island basis to meet these environmental challenges.”