Michael Gove’s promise to achieve a “green Brexit” has been disregarded by environmental groups warning that vital protective measures will be watered down.

The safeguards for chemicals, nature, air quality and waste have been weaker since the UK left the EU – despite the promise that stricter regulations would be “a special price” for leaving the EU.

The UK’s desire to be free to deviate from EU rules has “left gaps in existing standards and hampered cooperation on key issues,” a report concludes.

Replacing the EU chemicals regulation “gold standard” with a system with fewer staff, fewer financial resources and limited access to data put public health and the environment at risk.

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In an article for The Independent, the executive director of The Wildlife Trusts warned that Britain was in danger of regaining its 1970s bow as the “dirty man of Europe”.

“No more slippery exit clauses and no more deregulation that benefits polluters,” said Craig Bennett. “We were promised a green Brexit. Let’s see – it’s overdue. “

“Within the EU, ministers have been and are being prevented from doing what they see fit and what the people want,” he said, promising to do better.

However, the Greener UK coalition of environmental groups said the situation had mainly deteriorated since Brexit and gave its final “testimony” in a number of assessments.

There were some potential positives, including plans to replace the common agricultural policy with payments based on protecting “public goods” like habitats and clean water.

While the Fisheries Act does not prevent overfishing in UK waters, improvements in sustainability and monitoring activities at sea are “cause for optimism”.

Mr Bennett added: “Let’s not pretend the EU is the ultimate Guardian Angel – half of Britain’s wildlife is now in trouble and many species like red squirrels, cuckoos and porpoises are threatened.”

But he warned: “Leaving Europe has opened massive gaps in environmental legislation and enforcement. What we need now are strong, legally binding goals. “

Beccy Speight, Managing Director of the RSPB, says: “We are in a natural and climate emergency. Britain’s wildlife is in free fall and urgent action is needed.

“What we’ve seen so far suggests that many of the policies, regulations and laws we badly need have been weakened.”

The report put half of eight monitored areas – nature, chemicals, air quality and waste – on alert, with the highest risk.

The outlook for the others – water, climate, marine life, and agriculture – has been described as uncertain at best.

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