Despite prime minister Boris Johnson’s assurances that the UK would keep the “best tradition of the highest standards of environmental protections” after Brexit, MPs warned that the new deal leaves the environment considerably more vulnerable than under the agreement negotiated by Theresa May.
“This deal would absolutely, inevitably lead to a Trump trade deal,” said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during the House of Commons debate on Saturday, “forcing the UK to diverge from the highest standards and expose our families once again to chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef.”
The Labour front bench raised concerns that the new deal removes legal commitments to maintain green protections after Brexit, with ‘level playing field’ provisions on the environment moved from the binding withdrawal agreement to the non-binding political declaration.
“This deal fails to enshrine the principle that we keep pace with the European Union on environmental standards and protections, putting at risk our current rules on matters ranging from air pollution standards to chemical safety,” said Corbyn.
Green MP Caroline Lucas took Johnson to task for taking “a wrecking ball” to environmental standards in the new deal, while shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey cited Greener UK’s concerns that the Environment Bill, meant to set out a post-Brexit framework for green protections, “provides neither an enforcement body with independence… nor a commitment to non-regression in domestic law”.
“This is about the direction of travel for our ?country,” warned shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer. “Once we move out of alignment, we will not move back… Our gaze will shift to the United States, and that is a different economic model. It is not just another country; it is a different economic model, a deregulated model.”
Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett echoed those concerns. “The government keep promising that Brexit and future trade deals won't lead to a slashing of environmental protection, but they consistently refuse to put in place the legal means to stop that happening,” he said.
A statement released by the Department for Exiting the EU this morning confirmed the government will publish the full Withdrawal Agreement Bill today, urging MPs to approve in order to “enable us to move onto the people’s priorities like health, education and crime”.