Brexit represents a major change to environmental governance in Northern Ireland and the UK. Yet it is occurring at a time when Northern Ireland has no government, curtailing its ability to engage in both local and UK-wide preparations. Northern Irish stakeholders are worried that tensions between England and Scotland are dominating Brexit preparations, hampering discussions of UK-wide cooperation, as well as of the specific needs of Northern Ireland.
This report outlines key points including
- Northern Ireland is in many ways a unique case for post-Brexit environmental governance: it has extensive cooperation with Ireland on environmental issues and the Irish border is a key issue in Brexit negotiations. However, the lack of a Northern Ireland Executive means that its concerns are not strongly represented in cross-UK
- Northern Ireland has long lagged behind the UK (and most of the EU) in terms of the quality of its environmental governance. As a result, strategies to address post Brexit governance gaps in Northern Ireland must also consider pre-existing domestic governance weaknesses.
- An independent environment agency should be established as a matter of urgency (to further align Northern Ireland with best practice in environmental governance) and a separate environment commissioner should be appointed who can participate in a UK-wide environmental watchdog.
- Common UK environmental frameworks must be created. There should be a presumption in favour of transparent legislative frameworks underpinned by common standards and principles to avoid gaps in implementation and to create the conditions for successful policy coordination and cooperation.
The views expressed in this research paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative.