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New figures show discarding EU laws could cost UK £82bn

The government’s plans to rip up EU environmental laws could cost the UK £82bn over 30 years, according to new figures developed by environmental organisations.

Costs could stack up due to environmental damage, from poorer air quality and water quality, which impacts health, while weaker chemical regulations could cause a loss of recycling business opportunities.

The controversial Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill is set to be debated in the House of Commons today, with campaigners calling for its immediate withdrawal.

Analysis from the Wildlife and Countryside Link by the Economics for the Environment Consultancy (eftec) found less air quality improvement could cost £44.9bn over 30 years, while losing the water quality standards in England alone would cost £20.6bn.

blue and yellow bird standing on brown trunk close up photography

Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: ‘Prevention of air and water pollution, protection of precious wildlife and habitats, precautions against hazardous chemical use – they are all put at risk by the Retained EU Law Bill. If long-standing protection for nature is removed or weakened, the economic consequences could run into the billions.

‘Add to this the costs of years of uncertainty while half the environmental statute book is up in the air and thousands of hours of civil service time spent reviewing laws simply because of where they came from. All together, the costs of this economic and environmental wrecking ball bill could be astronomical at a time when the UK – and our environment – can least afford it.’

Figures show that £1bn could be lost due to weaker protections for key nature sites, as degraded land could no longer provide ecosystem services provided by the sites, such as lowering flood risk.

Discarded laws could also result in £3.6bn of health costs due to weakened chemical regulation, as some chemicals have been linked to infertility and cancer, placing increased demand on the NHS and increasing worker absences.

The REUL Bill would place species at considerable risk as nature sites could be opened up for development and weakening of marine regulations could degrade habitats in the sea.

The RSPB’s director of conservation, Katie-jo Luxton said: ‘This new economic report shows that the REUL Bill could cost the taxpayer more than £1bn over the next 30 years simply by opening the door to a weakening of current environmental protections. Having just published legally binding targets for nature recovery through its own Environment Act, it is baffling that the UK Government is now seeking to dismantle the legal protections to achieve them.’

Photo by Boris Smokrovic

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