Brexit and Wildlife

Matthew Roberts

Most of the laws that protect our wildlife and environment are tied to our membership of the European Union. This includes our strongest protection for special wildlife sites and effective regulations on pollution of our seas and rivers. So leaving the European Union could have far-reaching implications for our wildlife and all the positive impacts a healthy natural environment has on our lives.

But we British love our wildlife, and we could decide not just to keep the environmental protection that EU has provided, but to go further and improve it. After all, a love of wildlife unites us. In a recent YouGov poll, 80% of people said they think the UK should have the same or stronger environmental protection after it leaves the EU . People from all backgrounds, whether they voted to leave or remain, love wildlife.

This is why the UK also has one of the largest and most effective environmental charity sectors in the world, and a new coalition of charities – Greener UK  - has formed to work together for wildlife, post-Brexit. The Wildlife Trusts are a key part of this.

We believe that the people of our islands deserve a world-class environment: clean air, clear water, a stable climate, healthy seas and thriving wildlife in the places we love. The Wildlife Trusts would like to see June 2016 as a stepping stone to a brighter future for the UK’s natural environment and future generations.

Read our Manifesto for a Greener UK here.

"As we prepare to leave the European Union, I believe there is more urgency than ever to make our environmental laws ambitious and meaningful. Wildlife doesn’t respect the boundaries of human states, so once we leave the European Union it will be vital for us to continue to cooperate with other countries over matters such as fisheries and environmental standards."
- Sir David Attenborough


What needs to happen now

A world leading Environment Act is needed that:

  1. restores our wildlife and wild places in a generation and builds on vital protections developed as a result of the UK’s membership of the European Union;
  2. maps and creates local and national networks of wildlife corridors and natural areas;
  3. ensures the value of nature is recognised across Government, business and wider society; and
  4. creates access to nature close to where people live.

Our countryside and seas should be healthy and thriving with an abundance of wildlife everywhere, delivering multiple benefits for society, including food. We can achieve this by:

  1. directing public payments towards managing land in ways that bring back wildlife; and
  2. introducing new regulations and fair financial support for farmers and land managers to improve conditions for wildlife in the countryside.

Our seas should support abundant wildlife and a healthy, sustainable fishing industry, enabled by a framework for fisheries management that puts sustainability at its heart by:

  1. ensuring we are fishing at levels the sea can sustain (below maximum sustainable yield);
  2. ensuring there is a full discard ban; and
  3. preventing fishing down the food chain.

Post-Brexit policy recommendations for government 

Britain’s largest nature organisations have joined together to launch their joint visions for a post-Brexit environment. Read about our key wildlife laws , the future of farming and f ood production , sustainable fisheries management and UK climate leadership , and see our full briefing for MPs here . Full documents available to download at the bottom of the page. 


Read more

Phil Rothwell - Brexit, Wildlife and devoltion

Stephanie Hilborne - B uilding a Greener UK  after Brexit

Steve Trotter - The Future of farm support: what are our post Brexit options?

Tony Juniper - Brexit and Nature: where next?

Ellie Brodie - A second chance for our countryside

Joan Edwards - European nature laws get the thumbs up

What could we lose?  - a guide to some of the UK's environmental regulations tied to our membership of the EU

Our initial response to the vote to leave the European Union and the potential impact on wildlife and the environment

Our vision for an ambitious Environment Act for the 21st century, to bring about the recovery of wildlife and the natural environment in a generation

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