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Lack of trust and government mixed signals hamper UK-EU environment deal Peers urge compromise to secure a ‘level playing field'

Lack of trust is the biggest barrier to a breakthrough on the environment and climate change parts of an agreement between Britain and Brussels, a group of Peers has warned.

And “mixed signals” from ministers such as potential lower UK food standards risk the “critical impact” of no free trade agreement for UK companies.  

The House of Lords EU Environment Sub-Committee has urged the government to take account of the priorities of UK industry, to build trust with the European Union by strengthening its Environment Bill and to work with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on approaches to show how the UK will deliver high environmental ambitions.

The UK-EU political declaration agreed in October 2019 included commitments not to reduce environmental and climate protection and ensure a “level playing field” of common high standards.

The committee has stressed the benefits of the level playing field in future relationship negotiations in a letter to Environment Secretary George Eustice, saying that a level playing field would give the UK a lever to make sure that the EU did not “backslide” on its climate ambitions and commitments.

Lord Teverson, chair of the EU Environment Sub-Committee, said:

“The environmental level playing field still appears to be a stumbling block in negotiations.

“The UK and EU have similarly ambitious aspirations so it should be possible to find common ground. Failure to reach an agreement could have a critical impact.

“There is room for an agreement which addresses the EU's concerns without restricting the UK's ability to increase ambition or choose different policies to achieve the same goals.

“I hope that a way forward is found.”

Including environment and climate change level playing field provisions in the UK-EU agreement could also strengthen the Government's position in negotiations with other international partners, according to the committee.

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