EU Exit: Environmental standards from 1 January 2021

News article

Implications for business activities falling within environmental regulation after 1 January 2021

Some environmental legislation will stay the same and some will be adapted so that environmental standards will be maintained from 1 January 2021.

What will stay the same

The UK government is committed to maintaining environmental standards and international obligations from 1 January 2021. The UK will continue its aim set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than it inherited it.

Existing EU environmental laws will continue to operate in UK law. The following will also continue:

  • the UK’s legal framework for enforcing domestic environmental legislation by UK regulatory bodies or court systems
  • environmental targets currently covered by EU legislation - they are already covered in UK legislation
  • permits and licences issued by UK regulatory bodies

What will be changed or introduced

From 1 January 2021, current legislation will be changed to:

  • remove references to EU legislation
  • transfer powers from EU institutions to UK institutions
  • make sure the UK meets international agreement obligations

The UK government has introduced a new Environment Bill. It will establish a new, independent statutory body - The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). The OEP will oversee compliance with environmental law and will be able to bring legal proceedings against government and public authorities if necessary. The OEP will also scrutinise and advise government. Environmental principles will guide future government policy.

The UK government will introduce interim measures before the OEP is set up. These interim arrangements will continue until the OEP becomes fully operational.

Read more about plans for an independent statutory body and Environment Bill.

Environmental guidance by business activity
Depending on your business activities, there are preparations which your business should make for 1 January 2021. The government has published a series of technical guide on areas of environmental regulation detailing potential legal, regulatory and administrative changes.

More information
For more detailed guidance on environmental regulation and standards during the transition period and after 1 January 2021, see the EU Exit questions and answers page on the DAERA website.