Government publishes latest batch of No Deal Planning Notices, but major questions remain over impact on green businesses
The government has today published its latest wave of technical notices on how to prepare for a 'no deal' Brexit, reiterating its commitment to maintaining and improving environmental standards in the process.
But the documents provide little to no clarification on a raft of issues that are likely to impact the green economy under a no deal scenario, including the future of the emissions trading scheme, cross border energy trading, chemicals regulations, green product standards, air quality rules, waste and recycling policy, and renewables and emissions targets.
The documents - which follow a similar tranche of updates last month that touched on the potential impacts on agriculture and the nuclear industry - address the future of environmental standards and reporting requirements, EU energy and regional development funding, and the potential impact of a no deal Brexit on oil and gas businesses.
Each of the notices stress that a no deal scenario remains unlikely and that the government and the EU are making good progress towards delivering a comprehensive withdrawal and trade agreement.
However, they also argue it is the duty of the government to "prepare for all eventualities, including 'no deal', until we can be certain of the outcome of those negotiations".
The document titled 'Upholding Environmental Standards if there is No Brexit', underscores the government's long-standing Green Brexit pledge to maintain or improve EU environmental standards under all post-Brexit scenarios.
"The UK government is committed to maintaining environmental standards after we leave the EU, and will continue to uphold international obligations through multilateral environmental agreements," the document states. "The EU Withdrawal Act 2018 will ensure all existing EU environmental law continues to operate in UK law, providing businesses and stakeholders with certainty as we leave the EU."
It also stresses that existing EU targets that have been transcribed into the UK law will remain in place.
However, it acknowledges the UK will have the power to change its legislative framework in pursuit of its domestic environmental goals post-Brexit, pointing to plans for a new Environment Bill and post-Brexit green watchdog.
Environmental campaigners welcomed the commitment to green standards, but were quick to warn there is still a lack of clarity over how rules will be enforced and protected in the long term.
Writing on Twitter, Amy Mount of the Greener UK campaign said "the proposed new #greenwatchdog won't be ready in time for March 2019 (Env Bill won't be tabled til summer at earliest) - but env standards notice provides no news on how the govt will address the governance gap in the interim".
The document states only that the government is "considering what interim measures may be necessary in a no deal scenario after 29 March 2019 and before the Environment Act is passed and comes into effect".
Elsewhere separate documents detail how under a no deal scenario the UK will have to replicate administrative structures currently managed by the EU.
For example, the UK would have to set up its own quota system for managing HFCs and ozone-depleting gases while the Environment Agency would be tasked with building a new IT system to manage business reporting. "The reporting requirements upon businesses would not change, only the IT systems they use," the documents state.
Similarly, the notices confirm the EU system for reporting new vehicle carbon emissions would have to be replicated largely as is by the UK's Department for Transport.
Mount said there were "yet more signs" of a heavy administrative burden being placed on already stretched government agencies.
The government also today confirmed the EU's Industrial Emissions Directive would continue to apply in the UK post-Brexit even under a no deal scenario. However, it hints Ministers could review the requirement for industrial facilities to use best available technologies (BAT) to curb emissions.
"The UK government will put in place a process for determining future UK BATConclusions for industrial emissions," the documents state. "This would be developed with the devolved administrations and competent authorities across the UK. The UK government's Clean Air Strategy consultation for England also seeks views from interested parties on what the UK BAT regime might look like in the future."
In addition, the notices reiterate the government's commitment to replacing lost Regional Development Funding and confirm funding for cross-border energy projects through the Connecting Europe Facility agreed before exit day will be honoured.
However, Dustin Benton of think tank Green Alliance noted on Twitter that there were no such guarantees for projects that are slated to be developed after the UK leaves the EU. "UK gov't appears to have guaranteed 4 of the UK's 7 planned projects - only those under construction. 3 (to Denmark, France, and Ireland) look like they'll lose their EU finance and planning benefits," he warned.
Moreover, the energy industry is still waiting clarification on how cross border trading of power would be managed under a no deal scenario and whether UK energy generators would continue to be covered by the EU emissions trading scheme.
Lawrence Slade, chief executive of trade body Energy UK, welcomed the publication of guidance documents today, but also highlighted their "disappointing" lack of clarity on emissions trading schemes and arrangements for electricity and gas trading. He also reiterated the industry's concerns about crashing out onto WTO trade rules.
"We would like to reiterate our concern that a no-deal scenario will have significant and negative consequences for the energy industry and would likely create cost pressure that could impact customers' bills," he said. "We strongly believe that a deal, with a transition period, remains the best way forward for the for energy customers, the sector and the UK as a whole."
More broadly the notices paint a picture of the significant disruption businesses are likely to face in the event of a no deal Brexit, highlighting everything from the return of mobile phone roaming charges to the possibility UK driving licenses no longer being recognised on the continent.
In further evidence of the disruption that could impact manufacturers and retailers, the notices set out how in a wide range of areas no deal rules governing product standards would mean that "products tested by a UK notified body will no longer be able to be placed on the EU market without retesting and re-marking by an EU recognised conformity assessment body".
The latest tranche of documents will further fuel concerns that a no deal Brexit would result in huge disruption for much of the green economy. Reports have suggested the no deal planning documents that detail the most significant impacts will not be released until later this autumn, adding to fears that the absence of updates on a wide range of green policy areas suggests credible plans are either still yet to be finalised, or else contain some particularly eye-watering implications for green businesses.
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