Air Quality

Published on June 24th, 2016 | by Joshua S Hill


United Kingdom Votes To Brexit, Attention Turns To Uncertain Future

June 24th, 2016 by  

The United Kingdom went to the polls on Thursday to vote on whether to leave or remain in the European Union, with 72% of the country turning out to vote, and in the end, 51.9% of voters made it clear — the UK will leave the EU.

We are less than 24 hours into the news cycle following the results, but already the repercussions are being made known.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, despite widespread calls for him to remain as PM, has announced he will step down in 3 months. Cameron was a fierce Remain proponent, and in announcing he would step down by October said that he believed “fresh leadership” was needed for the country as they move forward.

In September of 2014, Scotland, one of four countries that make up the United Kingdom, voted in their own independence referendum as to whether to remain or leave the Union. The “Remains” won, but following the UK vote to leave the European Union, it is now highly likely Scotland will again vote on independence with the aim to remain in the European Union. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said that it was “highly likely” Scotland would again vote on an independence referendum, saying it was “democratically unacceptable” that Scotland would be forced to leave the EU against its own wishes. Scotland voted 62% to 38% in the UK referendum vote, a clear majority compared to the equivocating result for the UK as a whole.

The UK’s environmental awareness in future infrastructure projects is likely to take a serious hit now that the UK plans to leave the EU. In a report released late in May, the UK members of the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment revealed their concern for the way that environmental issues will be addressed, or even acknowledged, if the UK were to exit from the EU.

Professionals in the UK’s energy efficiency sector made clear their fears of a Brexit earlier this month, in a report which also highlighted the possibility energy prices might increase if the Brits were to exit the EU.

The moment the first votes came in suggesting that the UK would end up leaving the EU, the British Pound (GBP) plummeted more than 8% before stabilising to stand only 2.5% lower than when the day began. Nevertheless, this does not help much, considering that the GBP has now fallen to levels not seen since 1985.

According to BusinessGreen, the price of carbon allowances for 2017 fell 15% in the wake of referendum results, dropping to €4.88 at 12.30pm GMT, according to London auction platform ICE Futures Europe.

In response to the referendum, a number of environmental and renewable energy groups have called for solidarity and clarity as the UK now moves forward.

Matthew Spencer, director of Green Alliance:

“The nation is divided, and our environment is one of the few things left which we have in common. Britain will now have to create new national laws and stronger public institutions to fill the gaping holes that will be left as we jettison strong EU environmental agreements.

“The public did not vote for a race to the bottom, they will expect standards of environmental protection to be at least as strong in the UK as they are in France and Germany. We now need a plan from government to achieve that.”

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit:

“Leaving the EU is likely to put an upwards pressure on energy bills, partly due to the direct financial costs of Brexit and also the impact of reduced investor confidence. So an immediate challenge for the Government following this vote will be to prevent bills rising.

“Affordability and security of supply have been enhanced by our increasing gas and electricity connections with the EU. A choice for the government now is whether it wants to continue expanding those connections and hence the benefits to hard-working British families, or to shut up shop.

“On climate change there has been speculation that an independent UK would scrap measures to tackle the problem. These measures are mostly enshrined in British law, however, and it seems likely that the strong cross-party majority in favour of reducing emissions in both Houses of Parliament would seek to defend them.”

Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s CEO:

“The referendum may be over but many of the difficult debates are only just beginning.

“The environment must be at the heart of our negotiations with Europe and how we create a positive future for our country. We cannot let the UK return to the days of ‘the dirty man of Europe’. Protections for our birds and wildlife, our beaches and rivers, must not be sacrificed in the name of cutting away so-called EU ‘red tape’.

“The environment was rarely mentioned during the referendum but it must now move up the political agenda. With urgent issues like climate change, air pollution and destruction of the natural world already impacting this generation, not just the next, we don’t have time for the environment to take a back seat through years of negotiations.”

Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland:

“The vote to leave the EU is a huge challenge to decades of progress on improving the environment and tackling climate change. Many of the politicians backing the leave vote are climate sceptics and against renewable energy, and much of the ‘red tape’ they complain about are the laws that have given us cleaner air and water, and forced companies to reduce pollution. In the 1980s our environmental record had us known as the ‘dirty man of Europe.’ The fight is on to stop us slipping back to the bad old days.

“One of the biggest reasons for being in the EU has been to work together to tackle climate change. Being out of the EU will mean the UK will have to negotiate its own climate targets with the UN and the people in charge are very unlikely to share Scotland’s high ambition.

“The current UK government has been desperately unenthusiastic about renewable energy, holding back offshore wind and solar developments in Scotland. EU targets helped to push them a bit but any new UK government is likely to be even more of a blockage to unlocking Scotland’s huge renewable energy potential.

“There will likely be a huge fight at the UK level to keep laws which protect nature, prevent pollution and set standards for a clean environment. Most of EU environmental law is devolved to the Scottish Parliament so Scotland can decide to keep these protections in place but we will still feel the impact of deep cuts to budgets for the environment. As a society we lose the protection of being able to appeal to European courts if either the UK or Scottish governments are failing to protect the environment.”

James Thornton, CEO ClientEarth:

“Voters have made their views known on Britain’s future out of Europe. We respect that democratic decision of course, but it leaves me shocked, disappointed and extremely concerned about the future of environmental protections in the UK.

“Today, therefore, I challenge politicians of all parties to affirm their commitment to strong environmental laws and to guarantee united action on climate change, despite our upcoming exit from the EU.”

Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change

“The outcome of the referendum does not alter the climate challenge nor diminish the unequivocal signal set by the Paris Agreement to enable a smooth transition to a low carbon economy.

“The UK government must both sustain and enhance its leadership on the climate agenda at an international level. It should also move swiftly to adopt a robust domestic 5th Carbon Budget in line with the advice of the Committee on Climate Change and before the legal deadline at the end of June.”

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

  • Rick Thurman

    As I understand this, the Brexit vote isn’t the first time a European country has voted against full integration (Norway and I believe Denmark have put their own limits on full membership in the usual cluster of European clubs). The few people I know directly from Europe haven’t been too crazy about all the detailed regulations over-riding local National regulations as well. Maybe it’s time for fans of Brussels to take a step back and rethink just how tightly they need to regulate every aspect of European life? Instead of trying to create a US of Europe, could Europe be better served with a looser confederation? I suspect Europe could use less attention to enforcing regulations to impose a single definition of the good life. Instead, more attention could be put on spreading capital investment in continent-wide (sustainable) infrastructure would provide broader regional employment and easier distribution of resources and products. This isn’t just a matter of spreading convenient travel. Why?
    With climate change threatening not only desertification of the Med Basin but potentially shutting down the North Atlantic Current, no one should be assuming we know what our local futures hold… today’s hosts could become tomorrow’s refugees. None of us can afford to burn bridges.
    Putin has demonstrated he can’t be trusted to not use gas and oil as diplomatic weapons. Europe needs a Europe-wide grid and resource network for energy, water, and food at the least. Flexible resettlement policies that focus on easy entry to employment instead of guaranteed lifetime employment standards may actually be more stable, as well as continuing opportunities for training/ education (new technologies often require new skills).

    • Brunel

      If you could use the Enter button on your keyboard.

      Yes, the unelected bureaucrats banned some products that should not be banned.

      They should have banned coal power stations instead.

      They should have also independently tested insulation to see which factories make good insulation.

  • S Herb

    Headline from Bloomberg: ‘The Sun, not the Rain, Tipped the U.K. Vote’ – with all the recent news regarding the K. brothers I am surprised how little responsibility of Rupert Murdoch for the present situation is discussed. Australian, Fox News, Sun … – for how much damage on our planet is he responsible?

    • Interesting. I don’t follow the UK media well enough to have a clue on this matter, but I think I get the point…

      • S Herb

        Who knows what would have happened if Murdoch had not bought the Fox Channel and set it on its present path, but my impression is that it has played a major role in spreading climate change denial, and in making it a ‘reputable’ position. I see Murdoch as an ‘enabler’.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Murdoch is a major villain. And the interesting thing is that he has stated that he understands that climate change is happening and that human behavior is the cause.

          His media has pushed climate change denial for profit.

          • Brunel

            A few years ago Murdoch said the planet deserves the benefit of doubt.

            But his channels and “newspapers” have since been telling anti-renewable lies.

            I guess for advertising money from Big Pollution Inc.?

  • JamesWimberley

    A small silver lining to an enormous black cloud is that Hinkley C and its mooted successors are dead ducks. EDF was teetering on the brink of pulling out before. Now, with a plunging pound and worse economic prospects, the risks of the project to the French and Chinese have soared. In addition, Hollande is under severe pressure from French trade unions on his labour law reforms, needs a few concessions to give them, and has no incentive to play nice to Cameron or his successor. EDF will pull out in September.

    • Karl the brewer

      So no new nuclear, no new renewables as such, can’t burn anymore coal and fracking will dump methane into the atmosphere. What a mess!

      I read somewhere yesterday that there may well be a reshuffle at DECC as Leadsom and Rudd have been at each others throats recently. I wonder if we may get some relief from that direction?

  • Jenny Sommer

    Cameron was stupid for calling the referendum in the first place.
    I have no clue why he is stepping down. He has nothing to lose, the referendum is over and it is not legally binding!
    He could just say they are going to stay in the EU anyways.

    • Karl the brewer

      He should be made to stay in power on reduced pay and over-see the transition and accept all the grief coming his way.

    • JamesWimberley

      The only way this works is if the final exit deal is so awful that the UK parliament rejects it. A humiliating climb-down. Just possible, but divorce negotiations usually have a worse dynamic.

      • Ross

        That outcome needs to be promoted. It is a huge mistake.

  • Zorba

    All depends on the local regulations which replace EU ones, fortunately a lot of stuff has been cleaned up and it’s hard to see that being reversed now the hard work has been done. Energy policy is more unclear though, although I can’t help thinking Hinkley Point is even less likely that before. I expect offshore wind to continue to flourish and London to have ever-cleaner air as low emission zones are extended.

    Ultimately countries like Norway are an example of how things could be done in terms of trading with the EU and implementing sensible regulations. Remains to be seen if this example will be followed. Let’s hope so.

  • Brent Jatko

    I think that the country which spawned Isambard Kingdom Brunel and George Stephenson can work things out for itself.

    They certainly handicapped themselves with this vote, though.

    • Ross

      Unfortunately it is likely to trigger the break-up of the United Kingdom, when the Scots voting a second time this time to leave and the Northern Irish getting kicked out without anyone wanting them to take them in.

      • neroden

        I have no real idea what will happen to Northern Ireland. Ireland would feel compelled to take them, but the Orangemen would go hysterical and probably start shooting people again. I currently think they’ll stay in the UK because the Tories want them there (reliable Tory votes for about 200 years).

        • Ross

          There are only about 11 Unionist MPs and without Scotland their votes will be less needed than ever. More seriously for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland the state sector is the largest part of the economy in NI. Unlike East Germany unifying with West Germany there isn’t a big, rich partner to absorb the costs. The political divisions are still strong in NI so a United Ireland ruled from Dublin would be resisted by NI.

      • Karl the brewer

        Yep, Cameron will be remembered as the man who broke up the UK and prob the EU too. Check out the map below and look at Scotland, huge divisions within the country as a whole. The irony is the Scots voted IN to ultimately go OUT. Not sure about Wales as they voted OUT as well so it looks like the UK will become England, Wales and N Ireland.

        • Can’t say I’ve been a fan of Cameron’s moves in the past…. Seemed to give a lot of lip service to green energy and then take a bat to its knees.

      • Brunel

        The Quebec referendum of 1995 failed to change the status quo.

        If Scotland does have another in 2019 I am not sure if there would even be an EU to join!

        Holland and France will have left by then.

  • Brent Jatko

    I hope the UK can get along on just one foot because the populist idiots, particularly in the north of England, just shot the other one off!

  • Karl the brewer

    Desperate times in the UK at the moment if you care for the environment and it’s difficult to see a way out of the hole that we are digging. When I heard the results early this morning all I could think of was my 2 children.

    Meanwhile the planet is getting warmer and warmer 🙁

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