How can we make Brexit work for Sussex wildlife?

12 July 2016 | Posted in Tony Whitbread ,
How can we make Brexit work for Sussex wildlife?
Seaford Head / James Power

Author Tony Whitbread

Chief Executive

The result of EU Referendum means a very uncertain future for Sussex’s wildlife. We could now have a much-diminished suite of tools available to help us meet our charitable objectives. We are going to miss the special protection afforded to key sites, to habitats like chalk grasslands and chalk streams, to bats and dormice, kingfishers, and Dartford warblers. And a host of other environmental safeguards could be at risk as well.

Nevertheless we will use this time to look for opportunity to improve the lot of Sussex wildlife. Whatever your view on Britain’s position in Europe, we live in a changing world and it is clear that there is now a huge task to make sure that nature conservation is given proper consideration.

The environment was such a small part of the “leave” campaign that there is no mandate to weaken Britain’s approach to the natural world. Indeed some who have promoted leaving the EU have assured us that funding for environmentally friendly farming will be retained and developed further, and that legislation to protect wildlife will be strengthened, not weakened, in an independent UK.

We will now call upon those involved to honour their commitments and build a better future for our wildlife, wild places and for the people who enjoy it – and depend on it – every day. Ambitious well-funded national plans must be produced to restore the abundance of wildlife. More and better incentives need to be paid to farmers to reward them for wildlife friendly management. We must complete an effective UK network of marine protected areas. And to underpin all this we need to rebuild the connection between people and wildlife.

In the Sussex Wildlife Trust we are looking for opportunity in all these areas and will be engaging in negotiations to get the best for wildlife. Before the referendum, government departments, such as DEFRA, were looking at long term plans to restore nature within a generation. This has become even more important against the uncertainty of recent weeks and we are already building partnerships with government and non-government organisations to develop positive future plans for the environment.

We should not under-estimate the size of the task we face in order to get good outcomes for nature. We will have to work hard to gain a good position for wildlife, and this against a background of shrinking resources and reducing funding for our environment. Nevertheless, with the huge amount of support given to the Trust by its members and volunteers, and with the good reputation we have built up as a positive nature conservation organisation, we feel we are in a good position to enable Sussex to become the home for nature’s recovery. The support of our members: past present and future, has never been more important.


  • Kate Edmonds:

    28 Jul 2016 11:45:41

    An important call to arms, Tony. I fear that the environment and our wildlife are in for a very rough time, if Andrea Leadsome’s statement to Farmer’s Weekly is any indication – her only focus is on “business”:

  • Dr Wendy Maples:

    28 Jul 2016 12:37:48

    Like many people, I was disappointed that the environment wasn’t part of the key debates on EU membership, despite the efforts of, notably, Caroline Lucas (and others). But we are where we are…. Wouldn’t it be great if our government committed to ‘go one better’ on EU wildlife and habitat protection?

  • Vincent Porter:

    28 Jul 2016 13:35:11

    I am not an expert on wildlife legislation, but as I understand it there are (or have been) two categories of EU legislation. They are EU Directives, which require member states to establish certain provisions in domestic legislation, and EU Regulations which affect general EU programmes, such as farm subsidies and fishing policy. Wildlife protection for the former is largely enshrined in the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which in some ways goes further than the relevant EU Directives, so its provisions should be safe unless Parliament repeals it in future. The implementation of EU Regulations will continue to be discussed by the relevant EU Council of Ministers (of which the UK will continue to be a member) until (at least) two years after article 50 of the EU Treaty is invoked. Between now and then,, environmental organisations should lobby the UK government for environmental protection to be included in any future Brexit negotiations between the UK Government and the EU.
    All best wishes,
    Vincent Porter

  • 28 Jul 2016 14:11:05

    Hang in there! In the years before the Common Market/EU people were not so aware of the needs of the wildlife and there was no social media. I have very confidence that the needs of wildlife will continue to be catered for and improved. You do have the weight of social media behind you nowadays.

  • Lynn:

    28 Jul 2016 14:40:16

    Please let’s have a bit more positive thought over Brexit, I’m sure there are enough of us to fend off any dodgy plans the government & developers have to take over our countryside & decimate our wildlife!

  • Pauline Fletcher:

    28 Jul 2016 17:17:26

    Thank you SWT for standing up for our wildlife in these difficult and changing times. I am very concerned about the protection of some our most endangered wildlife and their important habitats without European protection. Good luck!!

  • Katherine Bowlan:

    28 Jul 2016 18:23:42

    I believe there is an opportunity to strengthen Britain’s commitment to wildlife and we must be ready to campaign and add names to petitions if necessary to make sure the government realise that the people in this country care about the environment and expect the government to put adequate policies and funds in place. There is no reason for any environmental funding to be cut after Brexit is negotiated, and There is opportunity for our responsibility to nature to be enhanced.

  • Jon Cawte:

    28 Jul 2016 19:45:48

    Surely the money we were/are sending to Europe and being watered down with excessive European union bureaucracy can now be given directly to the organisations that would have received it anyway. Nobody has said that laws/policies introduced during our time within the eu will be repealed out of hand, so the good environmental policies may be left relatively untouched. Still some of the remainers are using scare tactics on something that will not actually take place for some time yet. We cannot say for sure what will happen as the govt. has yet to invoke clause 5? and negotiate our leaving the eu. Until we are on the actual verge of leaving we will have no idea how well or badly our environment will fair, so don’t panic yet and lobby for what could well be a better deal, or not. Time is on our side.

  • Yvonne McDermott:

    28 Jul 2016 20:42:55

    Good to see SWT starting to work on this.

  • Peter Burton:

    29 Jul 2016 06:23:54

    Thank you Tony for your thought provoking words but mostly for ending on a positive note in these uncertain times. PB.

  • 29 Jul 2016 15:05:39

    We must preserve, conserve and save the environment and all the flora and fauna. Don’t let Andrea Leadsom and her like cut down the ancient forests and do other untold damage.

  • Jane Weymouth:

    30 Jul 2016 16:32:35

    EU helped save our wildlife, now they can do what they like.

  • Dan Docker:

    31 Jul 2016 08:01:59

    I am convinced that we can support our wildlife and countryside better outside the EU than within it. But is will take hard work and vigilance. I’m pleased to see that Sussex Wildlife Trust is being so pro-active in seizing the initiative.

  • Elizabeth Hindson:

    02 Sep 2016 05:44:00

    Good communication is the key to successful protection for the wildlife habitats in Sussex. Mailshots and emails will keep all nature lovers on their toes!

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