New Brexit withdrawal deal likely to commit UK to follow European environmental standards

The draft Brexit agreement that has caused political controversy in the UK, but which the European Union (EU) insists is its final offer, would – if approved – see many EU environmental regulations stay in force within Britain, for the foreseeable future, writes Keith Nuthall.

The complex 585-page agreement that lays out the terms by which the UK would quit the EU, as planned on 29 March 2019, is supposed to be a temporary agreement. But it allows for the UK to stay in a customs union with the EU for longer than a proposed transitional period to December 2020, during which time EU law would still apply in Britain.

This would facilitate oil and gas exports, although some industry experts are concerned that the agreement leaves the option of the UK later quitting the customs union. Nonetheless, should the agreement survive a vote in the UK House of Commons, it would mean for the time being the UK would be committed to implementing a carbon pricing and trading ‘of at least the same effectiveness and scope’ as that already operating in the EU.

Moreover, a joint EU/UK committee will be tasked with laying down minimum commitments for the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants; and rules laying down the maximum sulphur content of marine fuels. Also, the UK would be committed to following key EU automotive technical standards such as regulation (EC) No 715/2007 on type approval of motor vehicles with respect to emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles (Euro 5 and Euro 6), which impacts the liquid fuel sector.

As regards the future relationship between the UK and Ireland, the deal insists that existing cooperation on energy between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland be preserved.

A UK House of Commons vote on the agreement is expected in December, which would then be followed by a vote in the European Parliament
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