The slide presentation and the programme are below this article.
Thank you for joining my Environment Conference 2017 which took place on Friday 17th March at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester. I hope you found the event to be interesting and informative, with our speakers providing plenty of “food for thought.”
Brexit will bring immense challenges for the UK over the next months and years. However, I also hope that it will offer opportunities, particularly for our environment and rural economy, to take the benefits of European regulation and make them more suitable for domestic implementation. This means more effective environmental protection and a fairer, simpler, more efficient and sustainable domestic agricultural policy.
We must continue to cooperate with our European partners and the UK Government will have to think carefully about how we fund our policy and what system of dispute resolution will be put in place. An open trading relationship with the EU must continue and needs to be sorted out quickly and smoothly. We simply cannot afford to crash out of the single market with huge tariffs under a WTO regime.
During the Conference I was particularly heartened to see interventions from all sides, agreeing that we will have to continue to work together to get the best deal for the countryside. This will require extremely careful technical work and sufficient funding continuity to allow our environment to flourish. There was also a recognition that life for the UK pre-EU was not perfect and that we should learn from our experience as an EU member state in order to forge the best deal for the countryside post-Brexit. Indeed, in some areas, the UK has domestic legislation that is more ambitious than at the EU level. The UK is also a signatory, either via EU membership or in our own right, to various international agreements and that will not change after we leave. It is likely that we will have to manage expectations regarding the extent to which some things will or will not change after 2019.
Working together will be a key part of this and we must continue to harness the experience we saw brought to life across our panels and from the audience last week. It is clear that there is no straightforward answer – the EU is not perfect but neither is domestic implementation of the rules and regulations. EU law has given us valuable environmental benefits, funding and market opportunities and we should be able to learn from that as we move forward in these negotiations. Better regional and local awareness and finding the balance between compulsory and voluntary measures will also be key.
With Article 50 expected to be triggered in the coming days, I will continue to have a dialogue with the Secretary of State and Ministers in London and will be making the findings of the Conference available to them. As negotiations proceed, I hope to arrange future conferences across the South West so that we can monitor progress. It is clear there is both a desire and need for political leadership, not just on the big political issues but on the more nuanced, technical details. Each of these smaller building blocks will help us make a success of the bigger question of Brexit and how we get to a final deal in the short timeframe available. There may be times when motivations or outcomes conflict and we will have to take a calm and evidence-based approach to decision-making, allowing space for an open and frank exchange of views.
I look forward to keeping in touch with you all as the negotiations move forward.
MEP for the South West & Gibraltar
Environment Conference Programme