With the pound so much lower following the Brexit vote, many more Britons are now holidaying at Britain’s seaside resorts. And it’s thanks to the EU that 95% of our beaches are now clean enough to wade out into the sea.
It wasn’t always like that. Back in the 1970s, we used to pump our untreated sewage straight into the sea. It’s only because of EU laws that the UK was forced to clean up its act.
As reported by Friends of the Earth, who campaigned during the referendum for the UK to stay in the EU for the sake of our environment:
“The EU’s 1976 Bathing Water Directive – and successful legal action by the European Commission – has made our beaches as clean, clear and swimmable as they are today.
“But it wasn’t easy going…The UK fought hard to maintain the right to continue polluting.
“Successive UK governments exploited whatever loophole they could find. They pumped untreated sewage into our ocean until 1998 – longer than any other European country.
“Now, water quality at beaches is better than at any time in living memory, according to the Environment Agency.
“Some of the UK’s most beautiful and loved beaches are protected in this way: Watergate Bay in Cornwall, Druridge Bay in Northumberland, Croyde Beach in Devon and hundreds more which have reached good and excellent water-rating standards.”
But, warns Friends of the Earth, not all of Britain’s beaches reach the crystal clear standards that we have now come to expect. Only around 60% of UK bathing waters meet the new “Excellent” standard of the revised 2006 EU Bathing Water Directive.
When Britain leaves the EU, we will no longer be subject to the Bathing Water Directive.
Commented Friends of the Earth:
“Without external EU pressure it seems likely that standards will slip. Staying in the EU delivers a win-win scenario of cleaner beaches and economic gain for sea-side economies.”
After Brexit, leaked documents suggest that Theresa May’s government plans to “scale down” climate and environmental protection laws to secure post-Brexit trade deals.
Does Britain really want the return of the dirty beach?
• Photo: Jon Danzig at Tolcarne Beach at Newquay, Cornwall. The beautiful beach, one of the most popular in Newquay, has received a 5-star rating on Trip Advisor, with over 260 ‘excellent’ reviews.
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