In some rare good news, Defra will now regulate trade and chemical use, meaning we no longer need to adhere to European restrictions

The free trade agreement between the UK and the EU will not bind the UK to European laws that limit the use of lead on and around wetlands. And in more good news, environmental regulations that have been used to attack shooting will come under the full control of the UK Parliament.

Under the terms of the free trade agreement, the UK will not be obliged to use the EU REACH framework to regulate the trade in and use of chemicals. Defra has already published its own much more limited set of regulations. If the UK had adopted the EU version, use of lead shot within 100m of any body of water would have been prohibited, effectively ending its use across the UK. The UK will also not be tied to the EU’s birds and habitat directives. Along with a raft of other EU laws, these were incorporated into UK law but the free trade agreement gives the UK considerable latitude to amend them.

Instead of committing the UK to keep the current EU regulations, the free trade agreement says that “a party shall not weaken or reduce, in a manner affecting trade or investment between the parties, its environmental levels of protection or its climate level of protection”.

Reaction from anti-shooting lobby

The significance of this was not lost on anti-shooting campaigner Mark Avery, who said: “This wording, which must have been discussed, limits the protection of environmental standards to those that affect trade or investment between the UK and the EU, and this opens up a big discussion of where that line should be drawn.”

Among the areas that do not affect trade or investment — and which might therefore be “open for discussion” — is wild bird licensing. The requirements of EU law were seen as a significant factor limiting the Government’s options in dealing with legal challenges to the general licences. Game Shot Liam Pulley, who supported Brexit, told Shooting Times: “Hopefully, this will let the Government do what it needs to do. We must keep up environmental protection, but that doesn’t mean that we need to keep pieces of law that have no use except to attack us.” The free trade agreement does not, however, give the UK complete control over environmental law. We remain a signatory to other binding international agreements such as the Bern Convention and the Paris Agreement.