Devil is in the detail

Charlotte Burns, Viviane Gravey and Andy Jordan discuss the complexities of Brexit, devolution and environmental governance in the UK

Charlotte Burns,Viviane Gravey and Andy Jordan discuss the complexities of Brexit, devolution and environmental governance in the UK

Brexit matters for the environment, agriculture and fisheries in the UK. All these policy areas have been profoundly ‘Europeanised’. Moreover, they are also devolved policies, which makes their future development an issue of political contention between the UK government based in Westminster and the devolved administrations. 

Brexit raises some fundamental questions about whether we need common environmental standards, principles and frameworks within the UK, whether it is necessary for all policy areas and what kind of mechanisms are required for future policies to work effectively. 

The devolution agreements post-date the UK’s membership of the European Union and were premised on the continuing involvement of the EU. 

For devolved policy areas such as the environment, EU rules have provided a minimum benchmark by which all EU (and, by extension, UK) states have to abide. This arrangement has allowed Scotland and Wales to push ahead with more ambitious policies on climate change, and Wales has an ambitious sustainability and wellbeing agenda, supported by a future generations commissioner.

Further divergence in environmental policy across the UK is one possible outcome of Brexit, as responsibility for devolved policy areas may, in principle, revert to the devolved administrations. But the EU ...

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