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UK public overwhelmingly back EU rules to protect bees and nature, YouGov survey reveals

The British public are overwhelmingly in favour of keeping or strengthening EU rules that protect our natural environment - including Britain’s under-threat bees - a new YouGov survey for Friends of the Earth published today reveals.

The environmental campaign group is calling on the UK Government to guarantee that its Brexit strategy won’t lead to a weakening of environmental protections.

The YouGov survey revealed:

•  83% said Britain should pass laws providing a higher (46%) or the same (37%) level of protection for wild areas and wildlife species than current EU laws. Only 4% want lower protection.
 
•  57% said British farming subsidies should put either more (25%) or the same (32%) emphasis on environmental protection than the current EU subsidies do. Only 7% said British farming subsidies should put less emphasis on protecting the environment.
•  81% want to keep an EU ban on neonicotinoid pesticides that have been found to pose a threat to bees, with only 5% saying it should end [3].

The survey also revealed that those who voted to leave the EU were also strongly in favour of maintaining or increasing the protection for nature that is currently provided by EU legislation, and linking farming subsidies to environment protection.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Samuel Lowe said:

“This survey sends a powerful message to the UK Government that EU rules aimed at protecting our natural environment must be maintained or strengthened.

“The poll completely undermines those who argue that Brexit should lead to a watering down of the UK’s environmental commitments. There is little public support for this - even from those who voted to leave the EU.

“The Government must also stand up to pressure from the NFU and keep the EU ban on bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides. This is what the science says, and the public demands.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. Full YouGov poll results
2. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,687 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17-18 August 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+)
3. In January 2013, EFSA’s review of evidence into three particular neonicotinoids – Syngenta’s thiamethoxam and Bayer’s clothianidin and imidacloprid – found that each posed a “high acute risk” to honey bees. At the time, EFSA said that it was unable to draw conclusions on the risk to wild bees due to the lack of available evidence, which raises questions about how well pesticides are tested before being licensed for use. On the basis of its conclusions EU Member States voted to restrict the use of the three pesticides.
4. Those who voted to leave the EU also showed strong support for maintaining or increasing EU protection for our natural environment:
•  85% of those who voted to leave the EU (and 89% of those who voted to remain) said Britain should pass laws providing a higher or the same level of protection for wild areas and wildlife species than the current EU laws.
•  54% of those who voted to leave the EU (and 67% of those who voted to remain) said British farming subsidies should put either more or the same emphasis on environmental protection than the current EU subsidies do.
•  81% of those who voted to leave the EU (and 88% of those who voted to remain) want to keep the EU ban on neonicotinoid pesticides that have been found to pose a threat to bees.
5. In January 2013, EFSA’s review of evidence into three particular neonicotinoids – Syngenta’s thiamethoxam and Bayer’s clothianidin and imidacloprid – found that each posed a “high acute risk” to honey bees. At the time, EFSA said that it was unable to draw conclusions on the risk to wild bees due to the lack of available evidence, which raises questions about how well pesticides are tested before being licensed for use. On the basis of its conclusions EU Member States voted to restrict the use of the three pesticides.
6. Last week a comprehensive new study by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, widely reported in the media, linked neonicotinoid insecticides to long-term population decline of wild bee species across the English countryside – the latest in a long-line of similar research.
7. Brexit would free UK from ‘spirit crushing’ green directives, says minister.
In the above article the minister was referring to the Birds and Habitats Directives, which protect some of our most precious natural places such as Dartmoor and the North York Moors.  Experts conducting a review of the legislation for the European Commission recently concluded that the Directives are ‘fit for purpose’ – working well to protect nature when they are properly implemented.
An earlier UK review found the Directives protected nature without placing an unreasonable burden on business:
 

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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust