Academics giving evidence to the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee have said legally binding environmental targets and objectives could be scrapped.
Richard Macrory, professor of environmental law at University College London, explained to members of the House of Lords how the structure of UK law had changed since it became a member of the EU.
He said: “From my time as an environmental lawyer, I saw the introduction of really quite precise emissions standards and environmental quality objectives in a way that did not exist when I first started environmental law.
“There was lots of law and lots of procedure but the actual standards were left to policy guidance with a lot of discretion for Government. That has changed, it might have changed anyway but the EU did that.
“There is going to be a challenge, do we want to carry on with that practice of putting objectives into law or revert back to where they are in policy guidance and can be changed.”
The experts on the panel also raised concerns about how much regulatory stability there would be in the environmental field after the UK left the EU – saying businesses could be left open to legal challenges if there were gaps in the law.
Professor Maria Lee told the committee it was possible not all EU law could be converted to national law after Brexit and Prof Macrory said there was a question mark over the survival of European Court judgements which have interpreted directives.
He added: “My concern is we need to keep those interpretations in the law and that will be quite a challenge, but if it is not done we have got a potential great big gap.”