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Impact of Brexit on Wildlife Legislation

28 June 2016

Following the recent vote for the UK to leave the European Union (EU) there has been concern that Brexit could result in significant changes to environmental legislation in the UK. However, at this point in time, all existing legislation in relation to wildlife remains unaffected.

A key piece of legislation, the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) is derived from the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) which affords protection to European Protected Species (EPS) including bats, great crested newt and dormouse (amongst others), as well as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). It is likely that following departure from the EU (which is unlikely to be completed until 2018 at the earliest), the UK would no longer be bound by either the Habitats Directive or the Birds Directive; however this key piece of legislation would still require review.

The vast majority of protected species, including EPS, are afforded protection under national legislation including the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and Protection of Badgers Act 1992. The Law Commission has undertaken a recent review of wildlife legislation and subsequently recommended consolidating existing wildlife legislation into a single Wildlife Bill. Whilst this review was undertaken well in advance of the EU referendum, no significant amendments to the levels of protection afforded to different species were proposed as part of this review. Therefore, whilst it is unlikely that any Wildlife Bill will be a high priority for Parliament given the raft of other legislation which will require review following withdrawal from the EU, current indications are that existing levels of protection will remain similar.

A number of other Acts, which amongst others afford protection to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), are long standing and are not linked to EU Directives, whilst the UK is a signatory on a number of international agreements such as the Ramsar Convention and Convention on Biodiversity which will still be adhered to in light of Brexit.

Should you wish to discuss the implications of existing wildlife legislation on your project, please speak to one of our ecologists on 02380 261065, or email

Note: The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations legislation has been updated. The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 came into force on 30th November 2017.

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