Eastbourne’s beaches and wildlife must be protected post-Brexit, says downland campaigner

Andrew Durling
Andrew Durling
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As Article 50 was triggered this week, a downland farms campaigner has spoken out on how Brexit may affect the town.

Many voted Leave for parliamentary sovereignty, which in part means repealing EU environmental laws and replacing them with our own.

Andrew Durling, of Eastbourne Friends of the Earth, said, “One of the most important aspects of the EU was its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which provided extensive subsidies for all UK farmers, including those farmers on Eastbourne’s own downland estate.

“Brexit means that those EU subsidies will have to be reviewed by the UK government, which is actually an opportunity to create a subsidy regime that rewards farmers far more for wildlife-friendly, environmentally sustainable agricultural practices than the EU CAP ever did.

“Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee – which Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell is a member of – has warned British farming faces significant risks after Brexit.

“For example, farmers could face tariffs of up to 50 per cent on exports to the EU if Britain leaves the single market.

“The same Committee has reported that the UK needs a farming model that promotes biodiversity, helps prevent flooding, and stores carbon, especially now that climate change is having an ever increasing impact upon the UK.

“Such climate change impacts will be particularly severe upon coastal communities such as Eastbourne, which are very vulnerable to flooding that may result from the more frequent and higher storm surges coming in from the English Channel.

“Unfortunately, the austerity cuts to Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the lack of any coherent policy guidance from Andrea Leadsom, the minister in charge of DEFRA, means that post-Brexit environmental policy is drifting dangerously.

“Indeed, some of Andrea Leadsom’s decisions are regressive. For example, she pledged back in January to scrap the ‘three crop’ rule agreed unanimously by all EU agriculture ministers back in 2013 as part of a reform of CAP.

“The rule applies to farms of more than 30 hectares, which must grow at least three crops, and was agreed in order to help conserve the environment and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“But most importantly of all, the vast majority of the EU wildlife, nature, and environmental protections that the UK has benefited from will disappear after Brexit unless they are replicated in UK law.

“For example, UK beaches, including Eastbourne’s beaches, have become cleaner as a result of the EU’s clean water directives. And the wildlife found on Eastbourne’s downland and on the Pevensey Levels were protected by the EU’s nature directives.

“Given that Brexit is happening, most conservation bodies are now calling for a new Environment Act to properly protect UK’s nature and countryside.

“The successful campaign to save the Eastbourne downland from being sold off – a campaign that Eastbourne Friends of the Earth was a crucial part of – proves that local people care passionately about their local wildlife and countryside, recognising that a good quality environment is essential to a high quality of life and to personal well-being.

“Politicians need to recognise that and ensure that post-Brexit environmental policy is at least as good as, and hopefully better than, EU environmental policy ever was. Given the urgency of the environmental threats posed by rapid climate change, getting environmental policy right is absolutely critical.”