Camilla Swift

No, we don’t need to be in the EU to tackle environmental issues

No, we don't need to be in the EU to tackle environmental issues
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David Cameron has been banging the anti-Brexit drum again, this time making the environmental case for staying in Europe. He has joined forces with the RSPB and the World Wildlife Fund, who have both stated that they would urge voters to stay in the EU, arguing that being in the Union has had a positive impact on the British environment; safeguarding rivers and woodlands, and forcing us to clean up our beaches.

Today the Prime Minister visited Rainham Marshes, an RSPB nature reserve in Essex, and in a video from his visit he argues that since environmental issues cross national boundaries, we should work together – by staying in the EU – to tackle environmental problems.

Why a vote to remain on June 23rd is a vote to tackle pollution, climate change & protect our natural environment:

— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) June 2, 2016

But as I argue in this week’s magazine, if British animals did have a vote, I reckon they’d vote 'Leave'. Farming Minister George Eustice agrees. In today’s Evening Standard, he argues that being in the EU means we are losing our voice at wildlife conventions. Leaving the EU would, Eustice says, allow us to build coalitions around the world, and regain our seat at the table.

Of course it's true that environmental issues are international. But voting for Brexit wouldn't have to mean an end to cross-border discussions and negotiations. Being in the EU has had environmental benefits, yes. If we leave, though, that doesn't mean that the laws that have been implemented would cease to apply.

Cameron has said that 'I will use our seat at the table to ensure the natural environment, biodiversity and a living, working countryside are at the heart of agricultural policy through continued reform of the CAP [common agricultural policy], and that the birds and habitats directives are maintained and better implemented, both in the UK and across Europe, to ensure the diversity of our countryside and wildlife.'

But we don't have to be inside the EU to look after our countryside or the global environment. Eustice claims that leaving would allow us to have more global influence over environmental issues – not less. We're never going to be entirely isolated, and it's silly to pretend that we will be.