The Right Honourable Liz Truss MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Nobel House
17 Smith Square

Open letter for publication

Dear Secretary of State

The role of European policy in UK environmental quality

Britain’s membership of the European Union has had a hugely positive effect on the quality of Britain’s beaches, our water and rivers, our air and many of our rarest birds, plants and animals and their habitats. Being part of the Union has enabled us to co-ordinate action and agree policies that have improved our quality of life, including the air we breathe, the seas we fish in, and have protected the wildlife which crosses national boundaries. Higher European manufacturing standards for cars, lights and household appliances have lowered consumer energy costs, and stimulated business innovation.

As individuals who have spent much of our working lives seeking to deliver a greener Britain, we know from experience that EU coordination, legislation and policy has been critical to improving the UK’s environmental quality. We encourage you to continue to use our membership of the EU to strengthen environmental action including to continue to improve agriculture and fisheries policies, and to deal with growing threats like climate change and anti-biotic resistance.

This progress has been achieved by Member States working together, and we believe this is more needed than ever. If the UK were to leave the EU it is very unclear which elements of existing European policy would continue to apply to the UK. The environmental rules of engagement with the EU after Brexit are very uncertain and would be subject to lengthy and protracted negotiation due to our new status as an outsider. We would no longer be able to shape EU policy and our influence on the environmental performance of other member states would decline very sharply once we were no longer at the negotiating table.

We therefore conclude that Brexit would be damaging for Britain’s environment. There are many issues which will decide voting intentions at the forthcoming referendum, but on this issue which is so central to the British quality of life, the case is clear: We will better able to protect the quality of Britain’s environment if we stay in Europe.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Bill Adams, professor of conservation and development, University of Cambridge

Professor Andrew Balmford, professor of conservation science, University of Cambridge

Dr Andy Brown, former chief executive, English Nature

Mr. Poul Christiensen CBE, former chair, Natural England

Professor Paul Ekins OBE, professor of resources and environmental policy, University College London

Mr Nigel Haigh OBE, former chair of Green Alliance and former director, the Institute for European Environmental Policy

Sir John Harman, former chair, Environment Agency, and founding director, Aldersgate Group

Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS, former chair of the Royal Commission on Environment and Pollution, former chief executive, Natural Environment Research Council

Mr. Adrian Phillips, former chief executive, Countryside Commission, former Chair, IUCN Word Commission on Protected Areas

Dr Helen Phillips, former chief executive, Natural England

Dame Fiona Reynolds, chair Green Alliance, former director general, National Trust

Lord Chris Smith, former chair, Environment Agency

Sir Graham Wynne, deputy chair, Green Alliance, former chief executive, RSPB

Baroness Young of Old Scone, former chief executive, Environment Agency and the RSPB


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