Samuel Lowe is a campaigner at Friends of the Earth. In his piece for the Brexit Debates he explains how The Great Repeal Bill won't solve all the problems for environmental regulation after Brexit.
Yet, when it comes to protecting our environment, control isn't always clear cut; its challenges transcend national borders, parliaments and legal jurisdictions.
Still, the Prime Minister's decision to abstain from the creation of a legal vacuum, and announce the creation of a so called 'Great Repeal Bill' which would transpose as much existing EU law as possible into UK law upon exit - provides a degree of welcome certainty and protection against even the hardest of Brexits.
This approach should not have come as a surprise to anyone. The government has been trailing it for months, with civil servants and ministers privately briefing it as the only conceivable way forward. Yet in announcing it at Conservative Party conference the Prime Minister has succeeded in killing two birds with one stone. Not only has she quietened the wing of her party agitating for concrete action on Brexit, she has also managed to close down the space available to others to interrogate and question the UK's plans for a post-Brexit future. Every query, every concern will now be stonewalled with a four word reply: 'The Great Repeal Bill'.
But the Great Repeal Bill is no remedy for those concerned about the future of the UK's environment, and its exact content will shape our approach for years to come.
First, there is the issue of democratic accountability.
For it to succeed, and for EU regulations and relevant treaty obligations to be transposed in a timely fashion, it will likely endow the executive branch of government with increased powers to pass and amend legislation without subjecting it to the full scrutiny of parliament. To do otherwise could see the process held up for years. There is thus an ever present danger that large swathes of what was EU law could be significantly amended or deleted at a later date, on the whim of an individual minister, brandishing a red pen in the early hours of the morning. With some in Theresa May's government describing EU nature protections at 'spirit crushing' it's easy to suspect that they could be the first to be crossed out.
This is why it is vital the Great Repeal Bill contains measures which ensure that any changes to what was EU law - during transposition or after - that significantly alter its original scope, or intended purpose, are made by primary legislation, giving a full and proper role to Parliament as the sovereign law maker.
The government may indeed require flexibility, but no one voted for it to have carte blanche to do whatever it so please.
Second, what good is a law if there is no one with the power to enforce it?
Much of the UK's environmental progress - such as the cleaning up of our air and beaches - can be attributed, like it or not, to the threat of fine and censure by the European Commission. Without an independent, institutional body with equivalent monitoring capabilities and means of recourse, don't try and tell me standards will not slip.
Depending on where negotiations lead us, it may be that such a body will be created as part of our future bilateral relationship with the EU. Alternatively, it may be that we need to create new domestic institutions, or perhaps we simply need to beef up and expand the remit of those domestic institutions that exist. Regardless, clarity is needed, as to fall back solely onto existing domestic provisions - such as judicial review, which is too narrow an instrument to do the job on its own - would represent a significant weakening of protections.
Thirdly, what happens to that law which is not readily transposable? Take EU chemical regulation for example - it's dynamic; new chemicals are approved and banned all the time. Will we simply accept the list of approved chemicals as of the date we leave and then do our own thing, or will we continue to update it for years to come, mirroring the decisions taken by the EU? If the latter, surely we will want to remain involved in the discussions, in the respective agencies, in the process?
Which brings me to my final point: There's a reason the majority of environmental groups supported remaining in the EU - the only way to deal with transboundary issues is to work together. Threats such as climate change, air pollution and destruction of the natural world, cannot be dealt with by one country alone.
Transposing EU law over is perhaps a practical next step. But it's not enough. If the government is truly committed to being the "first generation to leave our environment better than we found it" it must prioritise continued coordination, cooperation and collaboration on European-wide environmental standards and regulation in the forthcoming negotiations with the EU.
To do so does not subvert the Brexit dream of Taking Back Control, it ensures we don't lose it entirely.
Samuel Lowe tweets at @SamuelMarcLowe
A version of this article was originally published by businessGreen -http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/opinion/2474503/what-does-the-great-repeal-act-mean-for-our-environment