Will Brexit mean watered-down fracking regs?


In the last week of campaigning before yesterday’s EU Referendum, Remain campaigners including Greenpeace began to suggest that a Brexit vote would lead to watered-down fracking regulations. It’s a theme that’s been continued in some sections of the media today, so is it true?


It wouldn’t appear so.

There are so many EU regulations and directives involved that identifying them all, and the linkages between them, would be a tough task at any time and never mind when the government’s main priority right now is to calm the financial markets after the British public voted to leave the EU.

Before it can withdraw from the EU, the UK must negotiate the terms of its exit. This is going to be a painstaking task for officials, and by all accounts is expected to take at least two years (nobody yet knows for sure, because it’s never been done before – the UK will be the first EU member to pilot its way out under Article 50 of the 2007 Lisbon Treaty).

Meddling with the myriad environmental laws that govern multiple industries in the UK, not just fracking, is highly unlikely in the short term against this backdrop of a complex and lengthy process of disengagement when you consider what’s involved.

Firstly, there are all the cross-sectoral requirements:

Environmental Impact Assessment

Disclosure of Environmental Information and Public Participation

Environmental Liability

Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control

Industrial Risk Prevention and Management

Environmental Management Systems

Waste Prevention and Management

Noise Prevention and Management

Energy Efficiency

Air Quality and Climate Change

Surface Water Quality

Soil and Groundwater Protection

Nature Protection

On top of these, there are then sector-specific requirements, in particular:


Waste Management

Extractive Industry

Infrastructure Projects

Each of these requires multi-faceted, multilayer regulation. At the last count, there were 79 EU directives and regulations relating to environmental protections, on top of which we then have our own primary and secondary legislation (search www.legislation.gov.uk yourself with the keyword “environment” in the legislation title and you’ll find 176 results) plus statutory guidance too.

Meddling with the myriad environmental laws that govern multiple industries in the UK, not just fracking, is highly unlikely

Attempting to unwind some of that, just to ease the way for fracking but without having an undesirable impact in other areas, would not be sensible. Not only that, it would undermine public confidence – something neither the industry or government will want to do.

What we can expect, in spite of the Brexit vote, is that shale gas operators and supply chain businesses will continue act responsibly, and observe and comply with the relevant laws (see the DECC Regulatory Roadmap here) in order to safeguard our shared environment and protect public health whilst seeking to establish the potential for shale gas to contribute to the energy needs of the nation.