What does Brexit mean for British biodiversity?

Friday 24th June 2016.  What a surreal day.  I spent it trying to understand why a small majority of the voting public had committed us to leaving the European Union, an organisation that has had a demonstrably positive impact upon our lives, our society, our economy, and our environment.  That dream-like state was not helped by the fact that I’d stayed up most of the night with my youngest son James, watching the results roll in.

Saturday 25th June 2016.  Twenty four hours later, after a good night’s sleep, I feel less dislocated but no less confused and disappointed.  It is what it is, let’s get on with it.

It’s much too early to properly answer the question of what this all means for British biodiversity, of course.  But as I pointed out in my post about the environmental arguments for remaining in the EU, there’s a whole raft of policies, legislation, agreements and initiatives that the government and NGOs need to consider.  Just to give a couple of examples, what will happen to the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, or the Special Protected Area status of places such as the Upper Nene Valley?

What I really hope is that we can continue as before, building on the current situation rather than tearing up the whole thing.  To some extent I’m optimistic that we can for the near future, because the government will have (as it sees it) bigger things to worry about.  But I do worry that eventually we will get left behind as EU environmental legislation evolves.  That’s something we have to be mindful of in the coming years.

The ecological internet is already starting to discuss these issues; here are links to a few pieces that I’ve seen:

Adventuresinbeeland has discussed what leaving the EU means for British bees and beekeepers, pointing out that EU funding has enabled bee inspectors to carry out apiary inspections and work with beekeepers on issues such as bee pests and diseases.

The Wildlife Trusts are trying to look positively at the future, with Brian Eversham, Chief Executive for the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, summing it up very well:  “Many of those who disagreed over the Referendum agree strongly that wildlife, our countryside and the natural environment matter, now and for the future. We need their voices loud and clear in the coming months. As we are now responsible for our own, independent future, it is up to all of us to make sure that we keep the environment firmly on the national agenda.”

Mark Avery has also summed up the current situation very succinctly on his blog – one cartoon says an awful lot.

Finally, here’s Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth, writing on how can we make Brexit work for the environment?

No doubt there will be more coming soon and I’ll try to provide updates on the blog.

In terms of my day job as an academic at the University of Northampton, things will also change across the whole British Higher Education sector, of course.  On one level that’s a different set of issues to what I’ve been discussing, but there are also links: a great deal of ecological research activity is being funded by the European Union and involves cross-border collaborations.  Scientists across Europe have to continue to make that work.

16 thoughts on “What does Brexit mean for British biodiversity?

  1. restlessboundaries

    It seems that the impact of Brexit is enormous and far reaching, and that those who voted for leaving are being very short-sighted and narrow minded. To your last point on education, I just read an article in Inside Higher Ed about the challenges universities and researchers will face as a consequence. In case you’re interested, here’s the article:

  2. standingoutinmyfield

    I just realised this morning that I won’t be able to submit the Marie Curie grant I was working on with collaborators from Ireland…I wonder what will happen to postdocs currently on a Marie Curie in the UK?

    1. jeffollerton Post author

      Presumably you mean Northern Ireland? Republic of Ireland’s not affected.

      For the moment there will be no change to things like Marie Curie – the UK is still part of the EU for at least 2 years. After that we’re not sure but, there’s no possibility that we’ll just throw out EU-funded researchers, the relationship with the rest of Europe is too important for that.

      1. standingoutinmyfield

        Haha no not at all! But I’m less likely to horribly offend someone. I once mistook Scottish music for Irish music and a friend actually turned red in the face, shouted at me, and stormed out the door

  3. navasolanature

    Am hoping that all the conservation organisations will really put pressure so the natural world won’t be the loser. Have mentioned you on a post on all this unholy mess.

  4. Pingback: Brexit and biodiversity: submissions invited to a Government inquiry | Jeff Ollerton's Biodiversity Blog

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