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Listen to the People: Friends of the Earth challenge ‘Brexit’ public participation

William Rundle

elni Review 2018, Issue 2, pp. 60-65.

With the chaotic and uncertain events around the withdrawal agreement negotiations between the EU and the UK, the question of ‘how’ Brexit is to occur is very important. This article relates to that question. It addresses it by describing Friends of the Earth’s legal challenge, in the form of a Communication to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, alleging breaches under Articles 8 and 3 of the Aarhus Convention.
Fundamentally, it’s about the UK government’s apparent failure to properly engage the public on the transparency for sustainable development environmental governance (and governance in general), by having clear legal frameworks that provide for effective and consistent participation.
Yet in the UK, a mature and established democratic country, the public finds itself in the peculiar situation of not having clear or enforceable rights to effective public participation in the environmental field, during the preparation of new laws. That is specifically, when new laws are being prepared by the executive that can significantly impact on the environment. There is a voluntary ministerial code legislative centrepiece for Brexit with regards to how exit from the EU should occur and what that could mean for the environment.

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  1. Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention).
  2. Legislation UK, The EU Withdrawal Act 2018.
  3. Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, OJ 2012 C 326/47.
  4. House of Lords European Union Committee, Brexit: environment and climate change, 12th Report of Session 2016–17, 14 February 2017.
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