The European Union referendum created arguments and splits and is at the top of the news agenda. The June 23 vote had consequences for all of us, despite heated discussions concentrating on business, immigration and internal rows in political parties.
With the EU Referendum over, the challenges faced by the UK’s wildlife are as great as they have ever been. Wildlife is under real pressure from intensive land use and sometimes insensitive development on land and at sea. Our lives are becoming more remote from the natural world.
It is time to focus on the future of our natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife. To concentrate on what a healthy natural environment can do for us and what we must do for it.
We need to move on from the EU Referendum and unite the country behind a vision for a brighter future for our wonderful wildlife and future generations. Whether young or old, privileged or marginalised, and irrespective of our cultural, religious, ethnic and political backgrounds, we all depend on a healthy natural environment and have a role to play in making it a reality.
Our politicians need to know that now the UK’s relationship with the EU has been decided, people who care for wildlife want to see changes for the better:
• Increased effort is needed at sea including designation of more Marine Protected Areas, better offshore development planning and improved fisheries management.
• A bold and visionary approach to nature’s recovery needs to be mapped out, committed to and funded in every country of the UK. This will help our farming, fishing and flood risk management as well as our wildlife.
• Agricultural policy reform should keep negative impacts of agriculture to a minimum and farmers should be better rewarded for doing what wildlife and society needs them to do.
The Wildlife Trusts are working to create a Living Landscape and to secure Living Seas. Our vision paints a positive and optimistic picture of what can be achieved in partnership, and it is more important than ever that we work together to make it a reality.
The EU has left a legacy of strong legislation and invested in many practical projects. Together, these have reduced the rate of wildlife losses and begun to reverse the fortunes of some of our wildlife. But there is growing pressure for deregulation both in the UK and across the rest of Europe. In our new political world there is a very real risk that the pressure for deregulation and reduced environmental standards will grow. It is everyone’s responsibility to make sure that the benefits for wildlife that we have seen inside the EU are not lost through deregulation or a lack of international cooperation.
Throughout the Referendum campaign, those who promoted leaving the EU said that funding will not be reduced for wildlife friendly farming and that wildlife protection will be strengthened in an independent country. It is now time for all those involved in the past few months’ debates to honour their commitments and to build a better future for our wildlife, wild places and for the people who enjoy and depend on them every day.
As a start, we will be looking for the completion of a network of Marine Protected Areas throughout the UK’s seas, visionary plans in every country of the UK to ensure nature’s recovery and fundamental changes in agricultural policy.
As we are now responsible for our own, independent future, it is up to all of us to make sure that it is a good one for the natural world.
The Wildlife Trusts have a vision for the future of the environment post-Brexit. If you want to discuss this vision join us at our event What's Nexit at Brockholes on Friday, October 7.
For more on the EU referendum and wildlife, visit http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/EU-Ref