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The RSPB's approach to the EU Referendum

Last modified: 09 March 2016

Woodland trail, RSPB Ynys-hir nature reserve

Image: RSPB Images - Jenny Hibbert

The RSPB has been carefully considering the opportunities and challenges that the forthcoming referendum on continued UK membership of the EU poses for delivery of our charitable objects: to promote the conservation of biodiversity and inspire a world richer in nature for public benefit. 

We recognise that the outcome of the EU Referendum could have significant implications for the ability to deliver on those objectives.

We know that nature does not respect national boundaries. Neither do the threats faced by nature. The RSPB has long been committed to comprehensive international agreements for nature conservation – coupled with a robust and enforceable governance framework – which ensure common environmental standards and protect our shared wildlife.

Looking at the evidence

Current evidence suggests that the EU has had a positive impact through some of its environment policies, most notably through the Birds and Habitats Directives but also by setting water quality, climate change, air quality and renewable energy targets. However, significant concerns remain about some sectoral policies (such as for agriculture and fisheries) and environmentally harmful subsidies. 

Meanwhile, policy uncertainty about the UK’s relationship with the EU presents unquantifiable risks for the RSPB’s ability to deliver on its charitable objects, in the face of serious and urgent declines in wildlife.

Very few issues are entirely clear-cut, so any decision about the UK’s future in the EU requires everyone, the RSPB included, to weigh up the evidence on both sides.

Challenge to both campaigns

In the run-up to the Referendum, as both sides seek to clarify and present their respective visions for the future, the RSPB will strongly challenge both the ‘in’ and ‘out’ campaigns to explain how their stance will help protect and enhance the environment. We will be working closely in partnership with other civil society organisations. 

Ensuring nature features in the public discussion

Our objective is to draw attention to the fact that the result of the EU Referendum will have a direct effect on nature and the natural environment. Our challenge therefore is to ensure that the environment features as part of the national debate, and does not get overlooked or sidelined and we hope to help RSPB members, supporters and the wider public to gain greater clarity about the environmental implications of the UK remaining in or leaving the EU. 

We will be encouraging members and supporters who want to get actively involved to raise questions to campaigners on all sides of the argument about what their proposition will mean for nature and the environment, and to carefully consider the responses before going to the ballot box.

Therefore, while the RSPB will at no stage be telling anyone how to vote and will not be joining any official campaign, we will nonetheless play a very active role in the debate.

More information

For more information about the RSPB’s approach to the EU Referendum, please contact Gareth Brede, RSPB Senior Media Officer, 01767 693221 (gareth.brede@rspb.org.uk)

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