Published in January 2018, ‘A Green Future’ sets out the government’s vision, goals and policies. The Plan reasserts the government’s commitment that “the body of existing EU environmental law continues to hold sway in the UK” but unfortunately fails to make any new, tangible commitments to reduce pesticide-related harms. Read our initial reaction to the pesticide sections of the plan here.
Strong pesticide regulations, and support for non-chemical alternatives, can actually help to achieve many of the broader environmental goals and policies contained in the Plan including tackling biodiversity, reducing water pollution and helping people improve their health and well-being by using green spaces. In contrast, failing to regulate pesticides effectively will undermine the achievement of the aspirations set out in the Plan and hold back its ability to deliver the environmental improvements it promises. Read our short policy briefing on how pesticide policies can be used as a tool for implementing the 25 Year Environment Plan.
Expected to begin its journey through parliament in 2018, this new law will lay out the support that farmers in England will receive to replace the subsidies provided by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. PAN UK is lobbying to ensure the Bill contains a clear, quantitative target for an overall reduction in UK pesticide use, increased support for farmers to transition to sustainable methods of pest control and the introduction of a pesticide tax. In February 2018, Defra launched a public consultation on its paper ‘Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit’ which will form the basis of the new Agriculture Law. Read PAN UK’s full response to the consultation here.
In November 2017, Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced that there will be a public consultation to design a new, independent body to hold government to account for upholding environmental standards in England post-Brexit. This body will replace the functions currently carried out by the European Commission which scrutinises new legislation and takes action against illegal behaviour. PAN UK will campaign to ensure that this body has the power to punish users of pesticides who contaminate the environment.
The government will also be consulting on the development of a policy statement on environmental principles to underpin policy-making post-Brexit. Crucially for pesticides, these principles include both the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle which ensures that those responsible for damaging the environment have to pay for the clean-up. These principles are central to EU environmental law, providing a framework for how policy should be developed as well as guidance to businesses and the courts. PAN UK will be feeding into the consultation to ensure they are retained.
While all these legislative processes are ongoing in Westminster, the UK government continues to negotiate the terms of Brexit with the EU in Brussels. We know that UK civil servants working on pesticides are expecting to be called upon to help the negotiating team to understand the issues. PAN UK is therefore lobbying to build support for our recommendations among relevant civil servants.
As the UK’s relationship with the EU shifts, the government has begun to look towards trade talks with countries outside of Europe such as the US, China and Brazil. These future Free Trade Agreements could have a massive impact on the UK’s relationship to pesticides. For example, based on figures from 2017, the total number of active substances that can be legally used in the US under its risk-based system is almost three times higher than the EU allows (roughly 1,430 vs 486). PAN UK will be watching these deals closely to ensure that they don’t enable a flood of harmful pesticides to enter the UK.
Currently, this will be an almost impossible task given that our government is able to negotiate trade deals behind closed doors with almost no scrutiny from parliament, let alone the general public. The new Trade Bill currently making its way through parliament is a chance to change this. PAN UK doesn’t have the capacity to work on it in any detail so for more information on the Trade Bill, please visit the Trade Justice Movement’s website. Also, read our post: Pesticide Regulation: Lessons learned from negotiating an EU-US trade deal.
Environment and agriculture are fully devolved policy areas, meaning that they are both decided by the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This adds an additional area of complexity and uncertainty into lobbying on the UK’s pesticide regime post-Brexit and many questions remain unanswered. For example, will the new Agriculture Bill apply to the whole of the UK or just to England? Will any pesticide standards agreed by the negotiating team in Brussels cover all four countries or again just England? PAN UK will continue to campaign to ensure that all UK citizens are able to enjoy strong protections from harms caused by pesticides, not just those in one particular country of the Union.