Labour MEPs: EU air pollution legal threat is latest Brexit embarrassment for toxic government

Outside of the EU, there will be no one to protect British citizens’ rights to clean air, Labour MEPs warned today after the UK environment minister received a dressing down from the EU Environment Commissioner. The government has been given until next Friday to demonstrate it will comply with EU air pollution laws or be taken to the European Court of Justice.

Following the meeting to discuss how to address repeated failures to address toxic air pollution, the Commissioner, Karmenu Vella, said proposals from the UK were not substantial enough to change the current situation, adding there would be legal consequences.

There are 50,000 premature deaths per year in the UK due to air pollution, and more than 2,000 schools and nurseries are located within around 160 yards of an illegally polluted road. The Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the UK estimate the cost of pollution at £20 billion.

Seb Dance MEP, Labour’s European Parliament spokesperson on environment, said:

“The situation is becoming embarrassing for a government supposedly committed to a so-called ‘Green Brexit’ – so committed to it that environment secretary Michael Gove snubbed the invitation to attend the summit, sending junior minister Thérèse Coffey instead.

“Since coming to power in 2010, the Tories have repeatedly failed to comply with legal air pollution limits, leading to countless court cases and threats of legal action at EU and national level.

“The Commissioner’s statement and threat of legal action goes to show that the British government cannot be trusted to tackle air pollution on its own. Who is going to protect British citizens’ right to clean air if we leave the EU?”