Co-signed by myself and others with a track record of standing up for the environment, this letter was published in the Spectator on 28th April:
Sir, As Conservatives we are clear that the European Union has been central to improving the quality of the UK’s environment. European policy is not always perfect, but on environmental issues it has allowed us to move forward in leaps and bounds.
The wealth of the environment on which our economy depends is not confined to national boundaries, which is why the EU has become such a vital forum for negotiating Britain’s interests in maintaining healthy seas, clean air, climate security and species protection.
It is largely thanks to European agreements that we now have sewage-free beaches in Britain. Because of tough European vehicle standards British car drivers spend less on fuel. And it is because of European legislation that some of the UK’s rarest birds have started to recover after decades of decline.
There will be many arguments in the coming weeks on the merits for and against staying in the EU but, for environmental sustainability, Brexit is likely to damage our interests.
We would lose influence over the environmental impact of neighbouring countries, whose behaviour affects the migration of our wildlife, the pollution of our air and the health of our seas. It could weaken our efforts to tackle climate change and undercut existing UK environmental protections, since there is no guarantee that the high standards we have negotiated within Europe will remain in place in Britain.
We are clear that the way to create a better environment for UK citizens is to strengthen environmental action through European co-operation, not by leaving the EU.
The Rt Hon Lord Barker of Battle, former Climate Change Minister
Richard Benyon MP, former Environment Minister
The Rt Hon Charles Hendry, former Energy Minister
The Rt Hon. the Lord Heseltine CH, former Secretary of State for Environment
The Rt Hon John Gummer, Lord Deben, former Secretary of State for Environment
Stanley Johnson, former Conservative MEP
The Rt Hon. the Lord Patten of Barnes CH, former Secretary of State for Environment
Laura Sandys, former member of the Energy and Climate Change Committee
Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, former Secretary of State for Environment
Rt Hon Tim Yeo, former Environment Minister