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How would an EU ‘Leave’ vote affect the recycling sector?


The possible effects of a Brexit on the recycling and waste management industry could be significant. Sarah Cheetham, head of Harrison Drury’s recycling and waste management team, discusses some of the major issues.

Short and long term effects of a Brexit

Figures from the CBI suggest EU membership is worth at least five per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to the broader UK economy, while the Bertelsmann Stiftung think-tank in Germany has predicted that a Brexit could cost the UK as much as 14 per cent of GDP.

Brexit campaigners are less pessimistic, suggesting that a short term hit could be followed in the medium term by strong growth.

Nevertheless, the consensus across most industry commentators is that some economic disruption and uncertainty would be inevitable if the UK was to vote to leave the EU.

What about regulatory risks?

Another major risk is regulatory, and this would have a disproportionate impact on waste and recycling in relation to most other industries.

Regulation-driven reforms resulting from EU membership have transformed the UK from being the least ‘clean’ member of the EU and provided a significant boost to the recycling and waste management sector.

There is some concern among recycling and waste management businesses about what a withdrawal from the EU would mean for the policy standards that have shaped the development of the industry in the UK.

A vote to leave would not remove regulations for many years


However, if there was a Brexit and the UK was to remain part of the European Economic Area (EEA), we may still have to comply with many European standards. These include the vast majority of environmental policy, not least regulatory requirements around waste and recycling.

Even in the event of an exit from both the EU and the EEA, there would have to be a review of all relevant policies to determine which of them would be maintained and which would be repealed.

Any exit would take several years to come into force, and even when it did the statutes guiding recycling and waste management in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would remain in place until they were superseded by new legislation.

Harrison Drury has a dedicated sector team for the Recycling and Waste management industry. For more information contact Sarah Cheetham on 01772 258321. We have specialist solicitors based in Preston, Lancaster, Garstang, Kendal and Clitheroe.

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