Penrith and The Border MP and DEFRA Minister Rory Stewart has set out an optimistic vision for the future of environmental legislation outside of the EU, in a debate in the main chamber of the House of Commons on the implications of the EU Referendum result on energy and environmental legislation.

The Minister for Rural Affairs, whose own constituency is one of the most sparsely-populated in Britain, spoke of the “the importance of being deeply optimistic about Britain’s future outside of the EU” about the sovereignty of parliament, and of legislation that will impact on rural communities and industries across the country.

​Without discounting the importance of EU funding over the course of the past forty-two years, he reminded the House of the UK’s long and proud history of environmentalism, citing the ancient protections of forests, the founding of the Forestry Commission in 1919, the formation of our national parks in 1947 and the passing of the Clean Air Act of 1956 as examples of Britain’s traditions of environmental protection outside of the EU.

His encouraging words highlighted the importance of grasping opportunities, in particular ways of addressing flood management, tree planting, and agricultural support through de-regulation and more flexible and imaginative budgeting. ​

“We need to think intelligently about about how the payments we make to agriculture, the environment and flooding can work together, rather than against each other. We need to ensure we remain flexible with regard to the best of modern science; there are ways in which rigid legal structures brought in by EU member states have in the past made it difficult to respond to the most recent evidence. Inspections, fines and rigid legal structures have also, at times, discredited the very environmental regulations we wished to protect.”

“The principles on which we now need to move forward are of realism, humility, honesty about conflict, of being honest with the public, and of confidence and identity.  Leaving the EU does not mean leaving government behind. We will continue to have to respond to procurement regulations, to operate in an international environment, and we will have to compromise. On the principle of humility, we need to be realistic about our power and about our capacity as a government to respond. On the principle of honesty about conflict, land remains a deeply conflicted issue. There are conflicts between different land uses, between people’s desires to build housing and create renewable energy, to produce productive food and to protect the species and habitats we value so much. But the principles of confidence and identity are perhaps the most important of all. The decision on the referendum was made by one of the most well-educated, well-travelled populations in the most mature democracy on earth. We need to ensure we recognise the legitimacy of that democratic choice, and put our full energy and optimism behind it. And we need to understand, that in responding to this, that the British Identity is based fundamentally on our land.”

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