Environment secretary Michael Gove has announced plans for a “distinguished” lawyer to lead a shadow watchdog to oversee environmental protection in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Speaking in front of the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee today (3 April), Gove made the statement when quizzed by Lords on what would happen to environmental standards in the situation that the Withdrawal Agreement isn’t agreed – and the UK crashes out of the EU.
Lords asked about plans for the regulatory gap that would be created by a no-deal before the new UK Office for Environmental Protection was set up – a date which is still unspecified.
Gove said a new ‘shadow watchdog’ would be set-up by a “distinguished environmental lawyer to lead that body” who would set up an “eminent, independent and effective watchdog”.
The lawyer and their team would have the responsibility to advise the government and, if any breaches do occur, action would be taken by the Office for Environmental Protection when it was set up.
It would be a non-departmental government body, and would not be a part of Defra, Gove said. When quizzed further on who the lawyer leading the watchdog would be, Gove explained that they would ‘speak the truth to power’ and they were ‘nobody’s patsy’ – and the watchdog’s role was ‘more as a godfather than anything else’.
The Lords then asked Gove for reassurance about the resources for the watchdog, to which he responded that it would be located outside of Defra, there had already been space and resource identified for it, and as soon as he was able to go public with the exact details of it, he would publish them.
Gove reassured the Lords that if “anyone thinks that because of no-deal Brexit they can play fast and loose with environmental standards” they would be wrong to do so, and said that the watchdog and the Office for Environmental Protection would ensure that wouldn’t happen.