Some 90% of UK environmental regulation originates from the EU, so naturally industry is looking to the UK Government for answers about their future continuation in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Our new report – published today in partnership with Squire Patton Boggs, the international commercial law firm - shows that in the short to mid-term manufacturers want to see existing EU-led environmental legislation fully transposed when Britain exits the EU.
Even when pressed on chemicals legislation, widely considered to be the most ambitious and burdensome regulations for industry, less than a quarter (23%) want to see it scrapped. Indeed, with the 2018 REACH registration deadline round the corner, what industry really needs at this point is a clear steer from Government on how the UK intends to proceed.
Our research tells us that, in the short to mid-term, manufacturers want clarity and certainty. They recognise that completely disrupting the raft of existing environmental legislation such as chemicals, waste, water, air quality - or even creating a legislative vacuum – would be costly and could seriously undermine the investment and progress that has been made to date.
Furthermore, if UK manufacturers are no longer aligned and obligated on similar terms to their EU counterparts, there is a real risk that they could slip behind standards, or be placed on an uncompetitive footing, to the detriment of both industry and the environment.
That’s not to say though that the prospect of cutting red tape isn’t appealing! In the longer-term, UK manufacturers have made no secret that they stand ready to capitalise on the opportunities that Brexit may confer. Key amongst these in the environmental legislation space is the opportunity to streamline, replace or remove where there is an approach that will work demonstrably better for the UK. There is a caveat here though - this cannot be done by Government or Brexiteers in isolation. It must be a mapped out, transparent and fully collaborative process with industry so that that we avoid any unintended and damaging consequences.
While no path is as yet clear, the option to carry on as we are and cherry pick the good from the bad later seems like the clear winner to me. This is the route that best supports industry, yet safeguards the environment at the same time.
You can download our Brexit report here.