Villiers: ‘There is scope for divergence’ on environmental standards

Environment secretary Theresa Villiers has said there is “scope for divergence” on environmental standards following Brexit, the day after MPs were told that prime minister Boris Johnson is committed to binding environmental non-regression.

Speaking at one-off session held by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) yesterday, committee chair Mary Creagh asserted that non-regression commitments, which have been moved from the withdrawal agreement as presented by former prime minister Theresa May and put into the weaker political declaration, would not be legally binding on the government as it negotiates future trading arrangements. 

Villiers conceded that the divergence could occur, but said that commitments had been made in the Political Declaration to maintain a level playing field and that Article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill makes a commitment to negotiating in good faith on the basis of the declaration, which she said meant it “has some legal status, though not one of treaty, obviously”.

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