Lack of trust could hamper UK-EU environment deal, say peers

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A lack of trust and mixed signals from the Government risk hampering a UK-EU agreement on the environment, it has been claimed.

Peers in the House of Lords outlined the risks as they said that a failure to find common ground on setting an environmental level playing field could be “critical”.

The concerns were set out by the House of Lords EU Environment Sub-Committee as they urged the Government to take account of the priorities of UK industry.

The UK-EU political declaration, agreed in October 2019, included commitments not to reduce environmental and climate protection and ensure a “level playing field” of common high standards.

In a letter to Environment Secretary George Eustice, peers indicated that a level playing field would give the UK a lever to make sure that the EU did not “backslide” on its climate ambitions and commitments.

And they said that the Government must build trust with the EU by strengthening its Environment Bill and working with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on approaches to show how the UK will deliver high environmental ambitions.

“The environmental level playing field still appears to be a stumbling block in negotiations,” he said.

“The UK and EU have similarly ambitious aspirations so it should be possible to find common ground. Failure to reach an agreement could have a critical impact.

“There is room for an agreement which addresses the EU’s concerns without restricting the UK’s ability to increase ambition or choose different policies to achieve the same goals.

“I hope that a way forward is found.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We have been clear in all of our trade negotiations that we will not compromise on our high environmental protection standards.

“The UK is taking a leading global role in tackling climate change, and through our flagship Environment Bill we will drive change which not only ensures our world-leading standards are maintained but also enhanced.”

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