Post-Brexit Wildlife Regulation Summary

29th June, 2016

UK wildlife laws are derived from three separate sources – UK legislation, EU directives & regulations and international agreements. Brexit will see no immediate change in the approach to wildlife legislation and licensing in the UK or to ecology requirements for planning applications and proposed new development in the meantime.

UK wildlife law is principally covered under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). The significant EU related contribution to UK wildlife laws is contained within the Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, which is the UK Government’s response to the EU Habitats (92/43/EEC) and Wild Birds Directives (2009/147/EC). International wildlife conventions, to which the UK Government is a signatory, such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, The Bern Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity provide further to the legal framework and will still remain legally binding.

The extent to which the UK must remain compliant with any European wildlife legislation will largely depend on the conclusion of negotiations with EU member states over the terms of the UK’s access to European markets. If the UK were to negotiate membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), most existing environmental laws would still need to be adhered to. However, both the Habitats and Birds Directives are specifically excluded from this agreement and this may place more emphasis on updating UK legislation, if existing levels of environmental protection are to be continued.

Current estimates for the timetable of Brexit negotiations run into several years and it is likely there will be no change to UK wildlife legislation, at least in the short term. Further detailed information on the environmental and ecological implications of Brexit can be obtained from the Institute of European Environmental Policy, who have produced a paper for the UK All Party Parliamentary Group which can be found here.

We would be pleased to discuss the ecological dimension of Brexit for any current or proposed projects.