70% of Labour MPs think Brexit will be detrimental to the environment - poll

Posted On: 
19th August 2016

Dods Monitoring’s Ben Rayner reports on a Dods poll showing 69% of Labour MPs believe Brexit will be detrimental to the environment, compared with 55% of Conservatives who think there will be no impact.

69% of Labour MPs believe Brexit will be detrimental to the environment, compared with 55% of Conservative MPs according to polling by Dods Reseach.

“There are few areas of Government policy where the decision to leave the European Union will have a more widespread impact than the environment”. Truer words could not have been spoken by Environmental Audit committee chair Mary Creagh last month as she launched her committee’s new inquiry into what impact leaving the EU will have on the natural environment.

Whilst every sector will be affected by the outcome of the UK's divorce from the European Union, the environmental sector which will be among those most acutely feeling the shift. Over the past forty years EU membership has bound the UK to over 50 multilateral environmental treaties, many of which the UK has been happily party to…others less so. Reintroducing these into British law will not be a straight forward procedure.

So what will the future hold for the environment post-Brexit? This is the question Dods Research put to MPs prior to the summer recess. 82 MPs representative of the current political landscape of Parliament were asked the following question:

“What sort of impact will leaving the European Union have on the environment”

The results showed that a small majority of MPs currently feel that leaving the EU will not be of positive impact to the environment with 51 per cent believing the impact will be a negative one. In contrast only 18 per cent felt there would be a benefit to a UK exit, whilst 30 per cent did not believe there would be any change from the status quo.

When broken down into parties that split becomes noticeably partisan with 69 per cent of Labour members believing Brexit will be detrimental to the environment compared to 55 per cent of Conservatives who think there will be no impact. This in many ways is reflective of the split in the Conservative party over Europe.

Based on the strong legacy the EU has had on environmental policy, it is in many ways not surprising that a majority of MPs are sceptical about the future for the environment. Once known as the “dirty man of Europe”, it is thanks to many directives enforced by the EU that the UK now has more clean water beaches than ever before and one of the lowest pollution levels in Europe. It therefore raises the question of how willing a future UK Government would be in maintaining these regulations.

However, it is the 30 per cent “no impact” statistic which is the most interesting. Minus a brief cameo appearance from David Cameron at a joint press conference at the RSPB’s Rainham marshes nature reserve alongside the WWF to stress the importance of environmental protections, environmental policy had a limited role in the referendum campaign. Instead it was topics such as immigration and the economy which dominated the headlines. This as a result may have left MPs unsure as to the precise environmental impact.

Through all the unknowns facing the UK over the next couple of years there is one thing which is certain - the outcome of the negotiations to leave the EU will have a huge impact on the environment…for better or worse.