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Prime minister David Cameron recently announced that a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU is to be held on 23rd June 2016. Many industries are now sharing their views on what it would mean for their industry if the UK were to leave the EU – termed ‘Brexit’.

As reported by UK Construction Week, housebuilders have warned that if the UK does leave the EU it could lead to a shortage of skilled construction labour, constrain investment in new house building and consequently further worsen the UK’s housing shortage.

Construction begins on a new residential development. The construction industry could be negatively affected by Brexit

Construction begins on a new residential development. The construction industry could be negatively affected by Brexit

This would be especially problematic as the construction industry is already suffering from a shortage of skilled workers. According to the Home Builders Federation, the industry is already reliant on overseas labour and would need additional overseas labour in order to close the current housing shortfall.

Baker Consultants’ managing director Andrew Baker points out that a skills shortage resulting from the UK leaving the EU will not be confined to the construction industry:

“I believe Brexit would have a disproportionate impact upon the ecology profession, not only because of the likely economic turmoil that would follow, but also the impact it would have on the regulatory framework. For instance, much of the law that protects UK wildlife originates in European directives. Brexit would throw our environmental legislation into disarray.

“It would also have specific consequences for us at Baker Consultants, as our in-house team is truly international and we have some of the best scientists from across Europe working for us. Exiting the EU would be a major constraint to our ability to recruit key talent and would damage our ability to compete internationally.”

Read more on why Baker Consultants believes the UK should remain in the EU in our article for Scottish Energy News.

Following the announcement of our latest marine contract win to provide underwater noise and marine mammal activity monitoring during construction of Wikinger offshore wind farm, our Managing Director Andrew Baker has discussed his views on the importance of the UK remaining in the EU. This has been published by Scottish Energy News and is reproduced below.

Snapshot of Scottish Energy News piece, reproduced below

Snapshot of Scottish Energy News piece, reproduced below

Scottish Energy News article

Ecological consultancy Baker Consultants recently announced the award of its latest significant European contract for Iberdrola on the Wikinger offshore wind farm. 

Here Managing Director Andrew Baker – one of the UK’s experts in nature conservation law – discusses the UK membership of the EU and the possible threat that the UK leaving the EU might bring for the renewable energy sector.

By ANDREW BAKER

I strongly believe that the UK must remain within the European Union. Not only is our membership of the EU good for business, it also benefits the environment.

As a company, we trade internationally with companies based in other EU countries. In particular, the marine side of our business is very active in German waters both in the North Sea and the Baltic.

Our latest project will see us providing an underwater noise and marine mammal activity monitoring service during the construction phase of the Wikinger offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea. We will also monitor underwater noise emissions as well as the activity of harbour porpoises that may be present within and around the wind farm during piling operations.

As contracts such as this typically account for up to half of our group’s turnover, a figure that is expected to increase in the future, the UK’s membership of the EU is extremely important to our business.

While at present we have a very good working relationship with our EU customers, this would clearly be threatened if the UK were to leave the EU, as we would no longer have the level playing field that the EU enshrines in law.

In addition, the benefits of EU membership for the environment must not be underestimated. The environmental profession is now starting to contemplate the implications of a potential UK exit from the EU.

A British ‘yes’ to quit the EU is likely to have a disproportionate impact upon the ecology profession, not only because of the likely economic turmoil that would ensue, but also the considerable impact that it would have on the regulatory framework.

Much of the law that protects wildlife in the UK has its origin in European directives, such as the Habitats and Birds Directives (collectively known as the ‘Nature Directives’), Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

If the UK were to leave the EU, this would throw our environmental legislation into disarray, potentially leading to years of legal wrangling while the UK decides what legislation should be reinvented and what should be dropped.

The Nature Directives have recently been the subject of an EU Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) process, a rolling programme to keep the entire stock of EU legislation under review. They were given an overwhelming clean bill of health. The public consultation received over half a million responses, more than any other consultation, of which the vast majority were supportive.

Rory Stewart (DEFRA Parliamentary Under-Secretary) was very supportive of the Directives, stating, “The UK, like other Member States, does not want to renegotiate the Nature Directives”.

However, as someone who is familiar with the practical side of implementing EU Directives, I have often been critical of the UK’s approach. The law is never perfect, but I am of the opinion that the majority of the problems we have with the Nature Directives are as a result of domestic implementation, rather than a fault of the Directives per se.

I am active in the campaign to stay in the EU. As a member of the UK Environmental Law Association’s nature conservation working group, I have been involved in assessing the potential impact on nature conservation of the UK leaving the EU. I represented the ecology profession at a recent All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity meeting to discuss the review of the Habitat and Birds Directives.

During this meeting, I stressed my views of the importance of retaining both these directives as well as continuing the UK’s membership of the EU.

We are very proud that Baker Consultants is an exporter to our EU partners, however I am very concerned that if the UK were to leave the EU this would be a serious threat to this aspect of our business.

If this does happen, we would have no choice but to move our business to a country that remains in the EU, whether it be on the continent or another country within a devolved United Kingdom.

We are already looking into contingency plans.

About Andrew

Andrew Baker was recently awarded a fellowship by his professional body – the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. He is also an active member of the UK Environmental Law Association.

Andrew Baker, our Managing Director, has been invited to speak at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity (APPGB); a forum for informed discussion between cross-party parliamentarians, senior policy makers, industry leaders and environmental organisations on biodiversity issues. He will share the stage with Stanley Johnson, formerly of the European Commission and European Parliament, and the RSPB’s Kate Jennings.

Andrew Baker, Managing Director

Andrew Baker, Managing Director

The meeting will discuss the ongoing review of the European Commission’s Habitat and Birds Directives, which form the cornerstone of Europe’s nature conservation policy. The Habitats Directive protects over 1,000 animal and plant species and over 200 habitat types of European importance. The Habitats Directive has been in place since 1992 and the Birds Directive since 2009, when it replaced the 1979 directive on the conservation of wild birds.

This takes place in the context of the ongoing ‘fitness check’ of the Habitats Directive and also under the shadow of the UK’s referendum on UK membership of the European Community. Andrew has been asked to speak to represent the views of ecology professionals operating in the commercial sector.

The meeting is scheduled for 5pm November 17th at Westminster. If you wish to attend, please contact Andrew Callender, Secretariat APPG Biodiversity.

About the speakers

Andrew Baker is an ecologist and Managing Director of Baker Consultants and Baker Consultants Marine. He has a particular interest in nature conservation law and has been an active member of the UK Environmental Law Association for over 10 years. He is a veteran of many public inquiries and has given evidence on biodiversity issues to parliamentary select committees. He is familiar with the sharp end of the Directives and, while he is a staunch supporter of Europe, has often been critical of how the Directives are implemented in the UK.

Stanley Johnson is a well-known environmental professional, having held senior positions at the European Parliament and European Commission. He is a successful environmental writer, having published ten environmental books, and has won high profile environmental awards from the charities Greenpeace, RSPCA and, most recently, the RSPB. He has also been a trustee of several environmental organisations, such as Plantlife and the Earthwatch Institute. He is also the father of Boris Johnson!

Kate Jennings is Head of Site Conservation Policy at the RSPB, a position she has held since 2012. She previously worked as a Site Policy Officer, also for the RSPB, and as Senior Officer and Site Designation Officer for Natural England. She is also Chair of the Joint Links’ Habitats and Birds group, which represents 100 voluntary organisations across the UK.

Baker Consultants strongly believes that the UK must remain within the European Union. Not only is our membership of the EU good for business, it also benefits the environment.

Baker Consultants trades internationally and currently 50% of our turnover is with companies that are based in EU countries. We expect this export of our work to increase significantly. While at present we have a very good working relationship with our EU customers, this business would clearly be threatened if we leave the EU, as we would no longer have the level playing field that the EU enshrines in law. Andrew Baker, Managing Director at Baker Consultants, says: “We cannot risk losing our European customers, so we are already investigating moving our business to an EU country should the UK vote to leave the EU”.

Construction begins at our latest European project, Gode Wind 1 and 2 offshore windfarm

Construction begins at our latest European project, Gode Wind 1 and 2 offshore windfarm

The benefits of EU membership for the environment must not be underestimated either. Much of the UK’s environmental legislation has its roots in EU Directives. Leaving the EU would throw this environmental legislation into disarray, potentially leading to years of legal wrangling while the UK decides what legislation should be kept and what should be dropped.

Andrew says: “We should always remember that all Directives are implemented through UK domestic legislation. The law is never perfect, but I am of the opinion that the majority of the problems we have are to do with the way the UK has implemented the Directives, not with the Directives per se.”

Andrew Baker and Baker Consultants will be active in the campaign to stay in the EU. “We must not ignore the serious threat that leaving the EU will pose to both UK businesses and environmental protection”, said Andrew.