The arguments about the EU have been primarily economic – and that’s understandable. Without jobs and a secure economic future, we can enjoy little of what life has to offer. We believe that the remaining in the EU provides our best chance of securing both.
But there are other considerations – including environmental questions. On these, too, the EU has been critically important.
The major environmental charities have published information making clear how far the EU has helped with the protection of our environment.
And our local charity – the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust – has given us information which brings the EU’s impact literally to our own backyard
– to the otters in the cleaned-up river Aire in Leeds
– and to the protection given to our iconic moorlands, the site of Wuthering Heights.
The major environmental charities – Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund – have published assessments of the EU’s impact. All, on balance, stress its importance to the protection of that environment.
In its latest magazine, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has added its voice.
So what has the EU done for Yorkshire’s wildlife and countryside?
Well, protecting Europe’s largest mainland sea-bird colony – a stronghold for puffins – at Flamborough Head for starters.
Funding the development of nature reserves like that at Potteric Carr, near Doncaster – where you can now hear the booming of bitterns, birds which had disappeared from large areas of England.
And the sightings of otters in the River Aire in Leeds is a tribute to the improvements in water quality, spurred by EU directives.
It is those directives [red tape in the views of Brexiters] which have been critical – in particular the Habitats and Birds Directives and the Water framework Directives, as well as directives to reduce water and air pollution.
As the Yorkshire WT puts it ‘Importantly these laws are strong and stable. Member states cannot change these laws and if they are not translated and implemented properly within the nation states, any citizen has the right to challenge their Government.’
Note that – ‘any citizen has a right to challenge’. The EU is often made out to be undemocratic – and we certainly wouldn’t deny that, as with Britain itself, much could be done to improve democratic processes.
But the EU also offers democratic opportunities – like this – to ALL its citizens.
And the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has been able to utilise them – to force the British government to include Thorne and Hatfield Moors as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, preventing peat stripping in Britain’s largest lowland raised bogs.
It’s EU designation which has helped the Trust – and others – protect the upland blanket bogs, better known to the rest of us as that most iconic of Yorkshire’s landscapes – the moorlands which ‘make Yorkshire so special’. Yorkshire’s Wuthering Heights are being preserved for future generations, with help from the EU.
In the case of the moors, that has involved their designation in ways which involve the Common Agricultural Policy’s farm subsidy. Ironic – since the CAP has often been seen as an enemy of the countryside. But, as the YWT says, the CAP has been much improved over the last decade – including by the Rural Development Programme. It is this which has been used to try to halt the damage to Yorkshire’s moorland.
All this has happened with EU help. And EU directives provide that stable framework which ensure that all this will continue to happen in the future.
The WWF, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the Wildlife Trusts, of which the Yorkshire WT is one, commissioned research on what the EU has meant for the environment – from the Institute for European Environmental Policy.
Its conclusion was that
“on balance, Britain’s membership of the EU has delivered benefits for our environment – such as reduced air and water pollution, reduced carbon emissions, increased recycling, clean beaches and protected areas for rare species and habitats – that would be hard to replicate in the event of the UK leaving. ‘
The report also goes on to highlight the risks and uncertainty associated with likely exit scenarios.
On 23 June you’ll have a vote.
The environmental case points to a vote to REMAIN – a vote for that stable future – and for Wuthering Heights and the Leeds otters. . . . .