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House of Commons Hansard
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EU Environmental Regulations
20 October 2016
Volume 615
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9. What plans he has for the UK to retain EU environmental regulations after it leaves the EU. [906696]

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The UK has been a leading player on environmental policy, setting the international agenda on climate change, as demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s commitment to ratify the Paris agreement as soon as possible. As recently announced, Britain will take back control of its laws through the great repeal Bill. Any changes to our environmental regulations after that time will be for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and this House to decide. The UK will continue to be a leader on international environmental co-operation.

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The European directive on bathing water has actually been part of a very good environmental law—water companies have cleaned up our beaches throughout the country, including the south-west—so can we rest assured that we will not row back on environmental laws that are good? Not all environmental laws from Europe are bad.

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I can see my hon. Friend’s point that it is in the UK’s interest to ensure that we have the cleanest possible bathing water. That issue will be something for future debates perhaps with DEFRA, but we will ensure that we maintain at least the standards that we have maintained in the past. I remind him of our manifesto commitment to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited.

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Is the Minister not aware that on environmental issues—waste, water and energy—we have such close relationships throughout Europe and we are very dependent on the high level of its technology and co-operation with us? Many people in that sector have read Matthew Parris’s article describing Brexit as the worst decision this country has made since Suez. Does the Minister agree with that view?

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I do not think now is the time to refight the referendum, on which the hon. Gentleman and I may have been on the same side, but it will be absolutely in our interest to co-operate with our neighbours on matters of the environment that affect us all.

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20. Among those who will be most affected by changes to environmental regulations will be the agriculture community. Is my hon. Friend aware of the significant concern among that community at the prospect of leaving the single market, with issues affecting welfare and the environment as well as tariffs? Can he assure the House that agriculture will not be used as a makeweight in the negotiations with other interests and that there will be close co-operation with DEFRA colleagues in relation to that? [906711]

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Absolutely. I can assure my right hon. Friend that there is close co-operation between my Department and DEFRA and indeed there have been a number of productive meetings between Ministers in our Department and agricultural interests, including the National Farmers Union and agri-business representatives from the whole of the UK.