The U.K. environment has benefited from Britain’s membership of the EU, which has forced successive governments to clean up the country’s beaches, seas and air faster than they otherwise would have done, a committee of lawmakers said.
If Britons vote to leave the 28-nation bloc in the June 23 referendum, the U.K. may still have to abide by many of the EU’s environmental directives without having a say over devising the policies, the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee said in a report published Tuesday.
“The U.K. has cleaned up its act since we were dubbed the ‘dirty man of Europe’ in the 70s,” said the committee chairwoman, Mary Creagh of the opposition Labour Party. “EU environmental laws have played a key part and mean we bathe on cleaner beaches, drive more fuel-efficient cars and can hold government to account on air pollution.”
The government and parliamentary committees are stepping up their analysis of the implications of a vote to leave the EU as the official 10-week referendum campaign gets under way. On Monday, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne warned that a Brexit would result in permanent damage to the economy, wiping billions of pounds off projected economic output over the next 15 years.
In Tuesday’s report, lawmakers said that there has been some “frustration” that EU policy is difficult to change once introduced, but the flip side is that it provides businesses with more certainty and stability. They also said that regulations should be applied more rigorously.
“Tighter drafting of directives and better use of evidence in developing directives, and implementing them at a member-state level, would address some of these issues,” according to the report. “The direction of travel at a European level is towards more revision of policy in order to reduce the regulatory costs placed on businesses.”