Engaging proactively with the debate as the UK leaves the European Union


Brexit Policy Working Group


We are currently seeking expert views to inform the development of our policy brief on agri-environment policy: find out more and contribute.

It is important that we engage proactively and positively with the Brexit process to ensure that the voice of the ecological community is heard. Our Policy Committee has established a Brexit Policy Working Group (BPWG) to provide additional focused guidance and support to the External Affairs Team during this extraordinary period (read the full Terms of Reference). The BPWG is chaired by Policy Committee member Nathalie Pettorelli, with seven other members drawn from Policy Committee, the Board of Trustees and the wider BES membership (see the full Working Group membership)

The BPWG will be focusing on four priority themes:

  • Sustainable land management: evidence to inform the shape of a new system of agricultural support in the UK, including interventions and payments for the provision of public goods.
  • Marine conservation and fisheries: becoming a world-leader in marine conservation and developing a fisheries policy tailored to UK-specific environmental challenges, underpinned by scientific evidence.
  • Nature conservation (species and habitat protection): how the legislative framework for environmental protection can be maintained/improved and enforced outside the framework provided by the EU legislation.
  • Invasive species: effectively transposing the Invasive and Alien Species regulation into UK law, and targeting resources towards UK priorities (including the impact of new trade deals) whilst maintaining international collaboration.

We will shortly be consulting members to inform our first project: an evidence brief for sustainable land management, and an event on marine conservation and fisheries. This work will require the expertise and active participation of a wide range of our members: join our Brexit Engagement Group Mailing List to find out how you can contribute.

Join our Brexit Engagement Group Mailing List

Our position

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union brings about the possibility of the most substantial changes to our environmental policy framework in a generation, whilst also placing British science in a state of profound uncertainty. There are major risks, but also opportunities in this period of change, and it is important that the ecological community makes itself heard by engaging proactively with the debate.

Many ecological issues are of international concern and impact, so effective cross-border collaboration is essential to address these global challenges. In the UK, environmental policy and legislation currently operate within a framework predominantly shaped by the EU. It is essential that environmental standards are maintained, or better, improved, and that we ensure that any changes in legislation as a consequence of the vote to leave the EU are informed by the best ecological evidence.

International research collaboration, which the EU has done much to support and foster, is vital for advancing ecological science and for our members. Maintaining funding levels, strong international partnerships and the free movement of people and ideas will be critical, and we will work closely with the wider scientific community to protect UK science and higher education from the potential adverse effects of leaving the EU.

Read our full statement on the outcome of the referendum

Latest news

We have engaged with Brexit through a variety of channels since June 2016.

Annual Meeting Workshop: Making Brexit work for ecology and the environment, 12 December 2016

Our well-attended workshop brought our members together to identify priorities, challenges and opportunities for the year ahead, and to inform our new Brexit Policy Working Group.

Read the workshop report

Meeting with Brexit Minister

On 30 November we met with Robin Walker MP, Minister for Exiting the European Union, at the Zoological Society of London as part of a coalition of environmental science and conservation organisations. Find out more.

BES and other organisations meet Brexit Minister Robin Walker
BES and other organisations meet Brexit Minister Robin Walker

Environmental Audit Committee inquiry: The future of the natural environment after the EU referendum

We responded to the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into the future of the natural environment after the EU referendum, which focused primarily on agri-environment schemes. We were called to give oral evidence, and both our written and oral submissions were cited extensively in the Committee’s final report.

We wrote a joint letter to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with CIEEM, the Institution of Environmental Sciences and the Landscape Institute to outline some the key messages of our collective responses.

Making Brexit work for Ecology and Conservation Science, 7 September

Hosted by the Zoological Society of London in partnership with our Conservation Special Interest Group, the Campaign for Science and Engineering and Wildlife and Countryside Link, this evening event examined the challenges and opportunities for ecology and conservation science post-Brexit. Speakers included Professor Sir John Beddington and Professor Sue Hartley.

Find out more and download the presentations

People, Politics and the Planet: Any Questions, 21 July

Our second People, Politics and the Planet debate, in partnership with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) and the Sibthorp Trust, saw a panel of leading politicians and experts discuss the next steps for the UK environment following the referendum.

People, Politics and the Planet: Any Questions 2016 Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)