Dr Holly Smith, Director of Harris Lamb’s Environment team, on the implications of Brexit on Environmental policy.

We are currently in the final stage of the Brexit transition period, and with much of the environmental legislation in the UK being derived from EU legislation, there are huge implications within the Environment sector after the transition period ends at 11pm on December 31st 2020.

Navigating such changes can be challenging, and we have been fortunate enough to benefit from the expertise of the Environmental Law team at Freeths when it comes to understanding how the sector could be affected by Brexit.

With our in-house team routinely carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecological Assessments legislation for which stems from the EU – our key concerns focused on whether existing legal obligations would still apply after December 31st.

So we were reassured to learn that the terms of much of our work will be covered by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (as amended), which aims to preserve the domestic effect of EU legislation as it applied to the UK immediately before December 31st 2020 as far as possible.

Essentially, this means that EU-derived domestic legislation and Direct EU legislation in place immediately prior to the end of the transition period will continue to form part of UK domestic law after that date, though Parliament will be at liberty to introduce future changes to the existing legislation thereafter.

There are very particular rules and regulations surrounding Environmental Impact Assessments and the protection of habitats and species, and last year the Government laid out its Environment Bill and the regulations it will enforce from next year.

Already we know that the Bill will enforce regulations on Local Planning Authorities, requiring them step up their response to biodiversity losses by adopting clear environmental and planning policy requirements that take account of, and address biodiversity impacts, so our team is confident that should Parliament choose to implement changes to existing environmental legislation, we will be ready to support our clients through these changes as they come into effect.

Freeths’ comprehensive guidance on how environmental law will change after December 31st can be found here.