Brexit: What would be the environmental implications?

If the UK decides to leave the EU following the referendum in June, there would be significant consequences, not only for policy, law, and trade relations, but for the environment. It is an area where the EU plays a particularly important role and pressing questions arise about how future UK governments might address the environmental agenda outside the EU.

The potential impacts, primarily within the UK, are explored in a new IEEP report. This begins with an overview of the EU’s record on the environment, particularly in developing and applying policy on a range of environmental themes, including nature conservation, air and water pollution, climate and waste. It offers an assessment of how policies for the environment might change outside the EU on two key scenarios and explores the consequences, including the risks that could arise. The CAP and the Common Fisheries Policy, neither of which would apply in a country outside the EU are considered as well in relation to the distinctive options for the UK inside the single market and outside it. Potential influences on the decisions that a future government might adopt are identified; these include international agreements and established UK policy positions. Finally, some conclusions are drawn about the balance of risks and opportunities. 

Update: we have further developed IEEP’s thinking on the environmental impacts of a UK departure from the EU in another new report for the All-Party Parliamentary Environment Group, which was launched on 17 March. This shorter report offers further reflections on how the departure process might affect environmental outcomes.

For further information, please contact David Baldock (

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