Europe and Central Asia
2 Jun 2016

UK's David Cameron supports EU nature laws, says they are reason to stay in the EU

EU standards have ensured UK citizens benefit from cleaner water, air and beaches. ©highlights6/Flickr
By Sanya Khetani-Shah

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has come out in support of the EU's Nature Directives, citing environmental conservation as a big reason citizens should vote to remain in the EU in the national referendum on 23 June.

"EU membership underpins many crucial environmental protections in the UK, while amplifying our voice in the world on vital issues like cutting global emissions,” said UK Prime Minister David Cameron. 

His stress on the importance of EU nature laws to the UK is supported by two of the UK’s leading environmental NGOs – the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, BirdLife in the UK) and WWF UK – which say remaining in the European Union is safer for Britain’s environment.

In a joint article published in The Telegraph on Thursday, Mike Clarke (CEO of RSPB) and David Nussbaum (CEO of WWF UK) make the case that EU nature laws – namely the Birds and Habitats Directives – have delivered significant protections for the environment and allowed the UK to contribute at the highest levels to the battle against climate change. They add that leaving the EU would cause “years of uncertainty” for the state of Britain’s environment and “The safer option for our wildlife and environment is for the UK to remain within the EU”.

"This referendum is a once in a generation decision, and it is vital that we hear from every sector on the possible implications for our country. Charities like the RSPB and WWF play an important role in the debate on Europe and I welcome their declaration that our natural environment will be safer if we stay in a reformed EU," said Cameron.

In advance of the national referendum on 23 June on whether Britain should stay in the EU (‘#Brexit’), the RSPB and WWF UK, which have a total of about 1.7 million supporters, will inform them why they believe that nature and our environment are safer in Europe.

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An independent report commissioned by the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and WWF illustrated how EU regulations have protected birds such as the Bittern, Nightjar and Dartford Warbler. EU standards have ensured UK citizens benefit from cleaner water, air and beaches. EU laws have also prevented the destruction of beautiful natural landscapes at the expense of infrastructure.  

“The outcome of this referendum will have profound implications for our countryside, wildlife, rivers and seas. David Cameron is right to put the environment at the top of the agenda today, and he has highlighted the range of benefits that EU membership has delivered for our species and habitats,” said WWF’s Nussbaum. “Nature doesn’t observe national boundaries but still needs protection.”

His words were echoed by RSPB’s Mike Clarke. “We have always believed that, because nature transcends national boundaries, it needs cross-border co-operation to protect it and a common set of international standards that enable it to thrive. As the Prime Minister rightly points out, UK membership of the EU has benefitted nature and the environment in ways that would be hard to replicate if we left.”

“The RSPB will not be telling people how to vote, and we recognise that voters will be weighing up a range of issues when casting their votes on 23 June. However, we want a secure future for our most precious wildlife and the places they call home.”

Cameron’s support joins that of the national governments of Germany, Poland, Spain, France, Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Luxembourg, Romania, Greece, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Hungary who have stressed the importance of protecting and better implementing the Birds and Habitats Directives.

Of course, simply remaining in the EU is not enough to save Britain’s nature. “… I will continue to press for change in Europe. I will use our seat at the table to ensure the natural environment, biodiversity and a living, working countryside are at the heart of agricultural policy through continued reform of the CAP; and that the Birds and Habitats Directives are maintained and better implemented, both in the UK and across Europe, to ensure the diversity of our countryside and wildlife,” Cameron said.

Watch Caroline Lucas MP explain why Britain’s environment is better off in Europe here.

See WWF’s advert of the environmental consequences of the referendum choice here

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.