Repeal Bill and the natural environment

The UK government published the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill last Thursday. We look here at the potential implications and concerns for the natural environment.

The Bill (otherwise known as the Repeal Bill) still has the main intention to transfer EU law into UK law, and to also repeal the European Communities Act 1972.


CIEEM strongly believes that the principles detailed in Article 191 of the Lisbon Treaty – namely the polluter pays principle, the precautionary principle, and the preventative principle – should be transferred into UK law. The Bill does not make this provision.

Scrutiny of Delegated Powers

As expected, government Ministers are to be granted broad-ranging powers to amend EU legislation transferred into UK law. Given the volume of laws that will require amendments this is required, however there needs to be greater scrutiny of the amendments. One suggestion is that the UK government could set up a dedicated Select Committee to look at these amendments.

We are also pleased to see that a 2-year sunset clause has been included in the Bill, which means that Ministers will not have these delegated powers indefinitely.

Post-Brexit Accountability

There is unfortunately no clarity in the Bill regarding robust accountability post-Brexit. The Bill has no requirements for new UK institutions to replace the EU institutions that currently provide the monitoring and enforcement responsibility. The UK government must put new governance structures in place to address this lack of accountability.

EU Caselaw

The Bill states that EU caselaw created up until the day the UK leaves the EU will continue to be applied. However, UK courts will not be bound by any EU caselaw, but if they intend to dismiss EU caselaw they will have to apply the same tests as they would use to justify departing from their own domestic caselaw.

Further Consideration

CIEEM and several other environmental organisations and bodies believe that in order to secure environmental standards and protections, that the transferred EU laws must be transposed into UK primary legisalation through, for example, an Environment Act. The Bill does not do this.

Read more about CIEEM’s Brexit activities.