18 January 2023
Figures released today by environmental organisations reveal that the economic costs of removing or weakening laws in just four of the areas covered by the REUL Bill could reach £82.94bn over thirty years.
These high figures come from the damage that could be caused in areas including the health impacts of poorer air and water quality and loss of recycling business opportunities due to weaker chemical regulations.
Analysis for Wildlife and Countryside Link by the Economics for the Environment Consultancy (eftec) investigated the economic implications of weakening environmental laws covering chemical regulation, water pollution, air quality, and habitats. With thousands of other retained EU laws in the REUL Bill’s firing line, the full cost is likely to be far higher.
|Impact from||Economic cost (£ billion) estimated as Present Value over 30 years|
|Less air quality improvement||£44.9|
|Weaker chemicals regulations||
£3.6 (loss of health benefits)
£12.8 (loss of recycling markets)
|Losing Water Framework Directive quality standards||£20.6 (England only)|
|Weaker protection of designated areas||£1.04|
The REUL Bill is expected to be debated in the House of Commons on 18th January. Campaigners are calling for the Bill to be immediately withdrawn. The charities note that the proposals specifically prohibit new regulations that could impose costs on businesses – even administrative costs. They say this is a deregulatory lock-in clause, which means that the bill cannot strengthen environmental law, but gives Ministers unprecedented freedom to weaken it.
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.”
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Everything about this appalling, anti-democratic and unconstitutional bill is wrong. It is seeking to give ministers the power to remove or amend existing UK legislation on a whim, but this should be the job of Parliament and Parliament alone. As things stand, over 1000 pieces of environmental legislation and regulations will cease to exist at the end of this year, at extraordinary cost to the environment and our economy, and cause untold chaos for business, landowners and farmers in the process.
“This Bill was the brainchild of Jacob Rees-Mogg when he was a Cabinet Minister in the short-lived Government of Liz Truss. By continuing to push it through, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak seems determined to repeat the chaos, confusion and cost associated with the previous administration. He needs to pull it, and think again”.
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.”
Hugh Knowles, co-executive director at Friends of the Earth, said: “Government plans to delete or entirely rewrite thousands of laws that protect people and the environment are a double blow for the communities already hardest hit by the cost of living crisis and existing environmental decline.Many of the same people facing these issues remain at a disproportionate risk of the harmful health impacts associated with breathing in dirty air - and will be for years to come - not to mention the erosion of workers’ rights and consumer safety standards. Instead of needlessly wasting government funding on this bill, which will drain precious time and resources, the government could be investing in the measures that will actually improve people’s lives and support the restoration of our environment.”
Ruth Chambers of the Greener UK coalition said: “This bill is already costing taxpayers millions by draining civil service time, but it’s also likely to have a significant social and environmental cost. Requiring new regulations to be less rigorous than before will lower the level of environmental and consumer protection. Rushing the analysis will lead to dangerous gaps in the law. If the government wants to improve regulations in a sensible and accountable manner, we need an approach that this bill cannot and will not provide.”
Read additional quotes from The Ramblers, Bat Conservation Trust, The Rivers Trust and Institute of Fisheries Management here.
The report, The economic costs of the Retained EU Law Bill, found that the UK would face the following economic costs from environmental decline as a result of the Retained EU Law Bill:
Wildlife and Countryside Link also investigated the environmental and social impacts of regulations affected by the REUL Bill:
This report only covers the economic costs associated with environmental regulations in the Bill’s firing line. Regulations protecting consumer and workers’ rights are also affected by the legislation – the cumulative impacts of such widespread regulatory change will be enormous.
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