The political environment

What will Brexit mean for the enforcement of environmental law as the UK prepares to strike out on its own? Tom Reeve investigates what could replace the European Commission as the ultimate watchdog

The European Commission has taken action against the UK over air pollution several times. Photograph: 123RFAs the government and the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) struggle with the nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, the environmental community is wondering how its issues will be governed within the UK post Brexit.

Much of UK environmental law is contingent on the European Commission (EC) and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The EC provides an oversight role for member states’ environmental performance, monitoring their compliance and investigating reports of breaches. It has the power to question member states and often works through arbitration to find solutions to the more difficult problems they face. In extremis, the commission can take a member state to court to force it to take action on an environmental lapse – and when it does, it usually wins. 

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