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

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Brexit Policy Working Group


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 consist of:

  • Chair: Nathalie Pettorelli, Institute of Zoology (Policy Committee member)
  • Jonathan Wentworth, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (Policy Committee member)
  • Peter Brotherton, Natural England (Policy Committee and BES Council member)
  • Sue Hartley, University of York (BES President)
  • Mark Reed, Newcastle University
  • Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, Plymouth University
  • Martin Dallimer, University of Leeds
  • Iwan Jones, Queen Mary University of London

The Working Group is currently establishing a programme of work for 2017, including events and the production of policy briefs and position papers. 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 to this work.

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 we retain the successful components for effective environmental protection within the UK, 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)