Ministers to consider environmental impacts of all post-Brexit trade deals

Ministers are looking into the environmental impact of all new post-Brexit trade deals, the government has confirmed.

They will also explore the possibility of applying a policy of net gain – which aims to leave the natural environment in a better state than before – to trade, according to a response to recommendations from MPs.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) made a host of suggestions last year in a report which said there were concerns over the potential impact of UK trade agreements on international levels of biodiversity.

The MPs called on ministers to use “sustainability impact assessments” for future deals, after a minister told the committee last January he was in favour of the idea but could not make committments on behalf of the government.

The government response – published on Monday – said it carried out impact assessments for post-Brexit trade deals that look at “several aspects of the environment” – including greenhouse gas emissions, air and water quality and biodiversity.

“The Secretary of State for International Trade will work closely with other government departments to assess the environmental impacts of new FTAs, and to improve their coverage and approach,” it added.

While the government agreed to look into the possibility of embedding environmental net gain into trade decisions, it rejected another EAC suggestion to evaluate all tax changes against environmental goals.

The government said it would not be “practical, cost effective or beneficial” to look into the “detailed environmental impacts for every tax change” – such as to personal allowances for income tax.

Philip Dunne, the Tory chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said he was “very pleased” to see the government accepting some of the suggestions made in the report on the UK’s footprint on global biodiversity.

“Embedding nature protection in trade agreements not only safeguards biodiversity, but it sends a striking message to trading partners that this must be prioritised,” he said.

Katie White from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) welcomed confirmation the government was “giving greater consideration to the impact of trade on the environment”.

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