UK government warned that a no-deal Brexit will damage the fight against climate change

Greta Thunberg Michael Gove Caroline Lucas Ed Miliband Layla MoranLeon Neal/Getty Images

  • A a no-deal Brexit would undermine the UK's efforts to combat climate change, the government is warned.
  • Leaving the EU without a deal will cost the UK access to the EU's Earth Observation programme and swathes of data on how best to fight climate change, the Liberal Democrats warned on Thursday.
  • The "Copernicus" programme gives UK businesses and researchers access to research on how best to understand climate change and mitigate against its effects.
  • However, the UK will no longer participate in the programme if it leaves without a deal.
  • There is growing concern about a no-deal Brexit in October as the Westminster impasse continues.

LONDON - Theresa May's government has been warned by opposition politicians that a no-deal Brexit would make it harder for the United Kingdom to monitor climate change, as it will stop receiving crucial scientific data from a key European Union programme.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove this month said climate change was an "emergency" following a visit by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and a House of Commons motion which urged the UK to do more to protect the environment.

"It is a crisis, it is a threat, that all of us have to unite to meet," Gove told Members of Parliament.

However, while the government has pledged to up efforts to combat climate change, it was warned by the Liberal Democrats on Thursday that leaving the EU without a deal would make it more difficult for the UK to monitor its impact on the environment.

Sir Vince Cable's party, which have surged in the polls in recent weeks following growing dissatisfaction with the two major parties in British politics, have raised concerns that a no-deal Brexit - advocated by dozens of Conservative MPs - would result in the UK losing out on data collected by the EU's Copernicus Earth Observation programme.

"Copernicus", set up by the European Commission in 2014, is an EU programme which collects climate data from the ground, sea and space, and uses it improve understanding of climate change and mitigating its effects.

If the UK leaves the EU without a Brexit deal, it will no longer participate in Copernicus, have no say in how its run, and lose access to much of the information collected by the programme 's satellites and data-gathering missions.

UK-based businesses and researchers would also no longer be able to bid to carry out work for the programme.

The government currently has no plans for replacing the data and contracts potentially lost by leaving Copernicus. Business Insider has asked the UK government for comment.

"Not only would the UK lose access to vital programmes which the Conservative Government will spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer's money trying to replace, but the EU will continue to advance and progress with technology in space whilst we lag behind,"Lib Dem Defence Spokesperson Jamie Stone told Business Insider.

"By threatening the UK's access to Copernicus with no replacement, the Tories have once again revealed their disdain for saving our planet."

Sir Vince CableREUTERS/Neil Hall

Prime Minister May avoided a no-deal Brexit in April by agreeing to delay the UK's exit until October 31.

However, there is growing concern that the UK is heading for another cliff-edge in the autumn, with talks between the government and the Labour Party to find a compromise deal failing to produce any significant progress.

MPs are set to vote down a crucial piece of Brexit legislation next month when the government brings the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to the House of Commons for its crucial second reading.

May is also under pressure from many pro-Brexit Tory MPs - including a number of senior Conservatives dubbed as potential leadership successors - to scrap her unpopular agreement with Brussels and leave without a deal.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday suggested that no-deal should be put back on the table by the UK side.

"I think it is very, very difficult to get a successful outcome to a negotiation if the other side thinks you will never walk away," the Conservative party leadership favourite said at a Wall Street Journal event.

He added: "In a way that is part of the reason why we have an impasse in the current negotiations because [the] other side, the Europeans, have sensed that the UK is not prepared to walk away and that has meant they have not been prepared to be as flexible as they might have been."

Hunt claimed that many EU member states would not "countenance" delaying Brexit again in October.

The Conservative government could come under greater pressure to pursue a no-deal Brexit later this month if Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, which supports leaving the EU without a deal, tops the European Parliament elections.


Got a tip? Email this reporter at apayne@businessinsider.com and send him a direct message on Twitter at @adampayne26.

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