Defra Ministers face questions over post-Brexit future and 25 year environment plan

​The Rt. Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was questioned extensively last week by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) in a public hearing for the Committee's ongoing inquiry into the future of Britain's natural environment after the EU referendum.

Ms. Leadsom confirmed that the majority of European Union (EU) environmental legislation will be transferred across into UK law in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, but uncertainty still looms for around a third of green regulations which the Secretary of State admitted "won't be easy to transpose".

With regards to waste management, Ms. Leadsom insisted that waste plans will not be weakened, saying "I do not see why there is any sense in which the goals of good environmental outcomes will be watered down in any way. We have very clear goals around issues such as air quality, waste… Those commitments will be enhanced by our ability to take our place on a world stage.”

Later on in the discussion, Ms. Leadsom confirmed that two separate 25 year plans - one for the environment, the other covering food and farming - will be launched within the next few months, but no exact date was announced for either framework. The content of the plans remains uncertain, but Dr. Therese Coffey MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Life Opportunities at the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), confirmed last week that waste and recycling will feature in them, stating that the plan "will consider our regulations for resources, waste and recycling".

In response to two written questions submitted by Caroline Lucas MP and Grant Shapps MP, Dr. Coffey also stated that Defra would be “consulting widely” on its plans for resources when the framework is published.Similar questions to Defra emerged in a debate in the House of Lords last week. Liberal Democrats environment spokesperson Baroness Parminter, and Labour environment frontbencher Baroness Jones of Whitchurch questioned Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, Lord Gardiner of Kimble about the department’s commitment to waste policy. Baroness Jones raised concerns over Dr. Coffey's scepticism towards circular economy policy, whereas Baroness Parminter questioned Lord Gardiner on the future of replacing and replicating the current environmental enforcement role of the European Commission and the European Court of Justice post-Brexit.