The UK exited the EU on 31 January 2020. There will now follow a transition period until the end of the year during which EU legislation and policy will be followed. The only exception to this is that while EU case law from before 31 January 2020 will continue to be relevant to the UK position, any modifications to the law as a result of cases after that date will not be relevant to the UK.
CIEEM will provide updates as the UK position develops through the various pieces of legislation that address environmental protection and governance in Westminster and the Devolved Nations.
For England, amendments to the Habitats Regulations will be largely limited to ‘operability changes’ that will ensure the regulations can continue to have the same working effect as now after the transition period. The Regulations will continue to be officially referred to, and should be quoted in reports, as the ‘Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended)’. The Offshore Marine Habitats Regulations will officially become the ‘Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended)’.
Members and readers should note that there are both pre-Brexit amendments and also EU Exit amendments to the Habitats Regulations. The Regulations have been amended since 2017 for various minor reasons. In addition to these existing amendments (that are already in force), there are also drafted 2019 EU Exit amendments that will not come into effect until the end of the Implementation Period. The Regulations remain exactly as they were before EU Exit day. The 2017 Regulations as amended by earlier (non-Brexit) amendments are in effect, but are currently unamended by the EU Exit amendments.
In a letter to stakeholders last October, Natural England reiterated that as the UK leaves the EU:
- The UK government is committed to maintaining environmental standards, and will continue to uphold international obligations.
- All European protected sites and species retain the same level of protection once the UK leaves the European Union.
- The environmental assessment regimes that inform planning decisions (SEA/EIA/HRA) continue to apply post EU exit.
- All permits and licences issued by UK regulatory bodies continue to apply.
- The legal framework for enforcing environmental regulations through regulatory bodies and the courts is unaffected by leaving the EU and continues to apply.
The UK Government has produced further general advice on the transition period that may be of interest to individuals and businesses.
[EDIT: This news item was updated on 4 March 2020 to include reference to there being pre-Brexit and EU Exit amendments.]