The future of environmental liability in the UK lies in the uncertain hands of Brexit negotiators.
Whatever deal the government strikes could either dramatically or minimally impact environmental law. It all depends on the terms of the withdrawal settlement and whether these terms involve the UK continuing to comply with EU laws that concern the environment.
Aidan Thompson, partner, planning and environment at Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) told Insurance Business he thinks Brexit will only have a minor impact on UK environmental law.
“No matter what decision is reached, nothing is going to happen for a while,” Thompson said. “The existing law will remain in place for the time being. The government over the course of the next two years will decide whether it wants to keep the current law or not. The question is – will they keep it or can we expect to see wholesale changes? Are they going to change it significantly and move away from some of the things that have been based on EU law for so many years?”
If the UK negotiates a “soft Brexit” and opts to stay within the European Economic Area, the country will still have to apply most EU environmental laws. A harder Brexit could see more significant changes but the UK’s hands will never be completely free. There are international treaties and agreements to consider, as well as rules and regulations in the commercial world.
One area that is unlikely to change is environmental liability law, according to Thompson. He argued “EU law hasn’t made a huge deal of difference” in this area.
“The vast majority of EU law has nothing to do with environmental liability,” he said. “The environmental liability laws we have in this country are the same as the ones we have always had.
“So as a result, even when we leave the EU, there’s nothing really to change. EU law didn’t really have much influence on environmental liability while we were in the EU. The chances are that when Britain leaves the EU, there won’t be much to change. We were always pretty much using our own environmental liability law.”
Thompson did identify one area that could be affected by Brexit.
“People who have environmental permits and people whose businesses require environmental permits may see a change in their liabilities,” he said.
Aidan Thompson will be speaking more about this subject and others at the Environmental Liability and Risk Masterclass 2017 TOMORROW (Thursday, June 29), at the Grange City Hotel, London. The event will feature a host of leading industry figures from the likes of Chubb, Aspen Insurance, Willis Towers Watson, Marsh, and more.
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