As the formal Referendum Period starts, it’s fair to say that in all I’ve heard and read in the pretty intensive media coverage of the Referendum, the word ‘environment’ has appeared infrequently. ‘Nature’ and ‘wildlife’ seem to have been almost entirely absent from the public debate. Politicians and campaigners on either side of the debate are concerned with other matters. This is both disappointing and worrying, since the bulk of our modern environmental legislation originates from EU initiatives, and wider EU policies have significant consequences for wildlife on the land, in freshwater habitats and the seas around Sussex.
In my view, it is vitally important that nature should be a major consideration. I will be writing to both the designated ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ campaign lead organisations, asking the following questions:
To the ‘Leave’ campaign:What mechanisms will be put in place following the UK’s withdrawal from membership of the European Union to ensure that the benefits to the environment, and in particular to wildlife in Sussex, conferred through membership of the EU are replaced and, where appropriate, enhanced?
To the ‘Remain’ campaign:In view of the potential changes in the UK’s relationship with the EU based on the reform package negotiated by Mr Cameron, what guarantees are there that the benefits to the environment, and in particular to wildlife in Sussex, arising from our status as an EU Member State will be maintained and, where appropriate, enhanced?
I believe these points should be raised as widely as possible in order to bring wildlife and the environment into the EU Referendum debate. I will be putting these questions to Sussex MPs and the South East MEPs, and I will share their responses through my blog.
Over the next 10 weeks, leading up to the UK Referendum on membership of the European Union, I will be setting out Sussex Wildlife Trust’s experience of working with EU policies and legislation and our understanding of how these mechanisms impact on wildlife in Sussex.
I would never encourage you to vote one way or the other. I hope my blogs, to be published on a Wednesday each week, will help you to make an informed decision when the time comes to cast your vote.