Brexit and Bees

Another week, and the news is once again dominated by Brexit. In Parliament MPs are focused on the marathon ‘committee stage’ of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill – the legislation which converts EU law into domestic law, so that there is certainty about the future rule book.

This legislation is absolutely necessary. But there are those like me who have legitimate concerns about sweeping so-called Henry VIII powers being granted to ministers, and will continue to seek appropriate democratic safeguards.

But it’s also right that we look beyond Brexit. We need to lift our eyes beyond the latest legislative skirmish and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to forge for the future.

And that’s why I led a debate this week about the condition of Britain’s pollinators. It’s because I passionately believe that Brexit must be the moment when our domestic environmental protections are strengthened, not weakened.

The world’s 20,000 species of bee play an absolutely critical role in fertilising over 90% of the planet’s 107 major crops. And yet last year the UN concluded that 40% of pollinators risk global extinction. Hives have been badly hit across Europe, and elsewhere by a mysterious phenomenon called "colony collapse disorder". The honey harvest in France has dropped to just 10,000 tons this year – a third of the yield in the 1990s.

The Government has taken important steps to respond through its National Pollinator Strategy, and was I was delighted that ministers recently agreed to a bold ban on the damaging neonicotinoid pesticides.

But we need to go further. We need to set out a new vision for a stronger environmental future of our country. Because I believe that our country’s future success will not simply be measured in pounds, shillings and pence. It will be measured too in the richness of our environment – be it high up on Cotswold escarpment or down in the verges along the Honeybourne Line. It is an environment worth fighting for.