The marine environment after Brexit – the UK’s international law obligations

November 1, 2017

Jill Barrett spoke at a conference on ‘The Marine Environment after Brexit: the Future for Science and Policy’ hosted by the British Ecological Society and the Marine Biological Association on 31 October 2017. Her topic was the effect of Brexit on the UK’s international law obligations relating to the marine environment, and the way they are implemented in the legal systems of the UK. She discussed the different ways in which the UK and the EU currently participate in treaties, alone and together. Most environmental treaties are ‘mixed agreements’ in which the EU and Member States participate together and divide responsibility for specific obligations. If, when the UK leaves the EU, it remains party to these treaties, the international obligations currently discharged by the EU will become the UK’s responsibility. How the UK will fulfil these obligations and convert EU Implementing legislation into UK law via the EU Withdrawal Bill by 29 March 2019 raises a range of issues, notably the question of new regulatory authorities, enforcement and adjudication, and how this will be worked out with the devolved authorities. Different challenges arise for treaties to which the EU is party and the UK is not, such as regional fishery management organisations. Could the UK join these organisations as a new member; if so on what basis would UK vessels be entitled to fish? Would EU implementing regulations be converted into UK law or would this provide an opportunity for the UK to take a different legislative approach? What are the prospects for these issues being resolved before Brexit and on which issues is the need for clarity the most pressing?

Jill’s presentation set the scene for this event which brought together leading scientists and other stakeholders to consider the future of marine environmental policy and marine biological research in the UK. The outputs of the conference will inform the development of a joint British Ecological Society and the Marine Biological Association policy brief.

Further information on the event can be found here