Will Brexit harm our Westcountry beaches?

Fistral beach in Newquay attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Credit: ITV News Westcountry

Scientists and Environmentalists have told ITV News Westcountry that they have received no concrete assurance from the UK Government that EU laws protecting the coastline will be replicated into British law after Brexit.

The UK was once known as "the dirty man of Europe", when it originally applied for EU membership back in 1973, in the days when raw sewage was pumped directly into the ocean.

The EU Bathing Water Directive was introduced in 1976, and in the decades that followed, the UK slowly began to adhere to its recommendations.

In 1987 just two beaches in the South West were considered to have Blue Flag status for cleanliness, but that number has now grown in 26.

Dawlish Warren in Devon is one of 26 'Blue Flag' beaches in the South West. Credit: ITV News Westcountry

A recent YouGov survey also suggested more than 80% of people want the current EU standards on Environmental law to stay in place after Brexit.

The Government has hinted that many variations of current EU laws will be enshrined into UK law after March 2019.

However, many environmental groups are concerned that laws protecting British wildlife may be watered down in order to facilitate trade deals or appease certain industries after Brexit.

Sion Williams, the Friends of the Earth campaigner for the South West and Wales, says the EU has had a big role to play in the improvement of our beaches:

Plymouth Marine Laboratory is a world-leading research body that monitors the health of the coast and our oceans.

Researchers there say being a member of the EU has benefitted the health of our beaches and sea-water. Due to the protective laws in place, and also efforts made to share information and make improvements among member nations.

Professor Melanie Austen from the Marine Laboratory is worried that our standards may go un-checked after Brexit:

A potential drop in beach cleanliness could also have a major impact on tourism according to one local Member of the European Parliament.

Molly Scott-Cato, the Green Party MEP for the South West fears that if our standards fall below EU member nations, tourists will be put off from visiting.

She said:

There are concerns that a drop in beach and bathing water cleanliness could have a big impact on tourism in the South West. Credit: ITV News Westcountry

Those who monitor our coasts do want re-assurances sooner rather than later, that the UK will continue to maintain high environmental standards post-Brexit.

Britain in theory could follow the example of Norway, a non-EU member, but a European nation that sets high environmental standards.

The Environment Agency is still responsible for monitoring the state of bathing water, in a statement a spokesperson said:

Meanwhile the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said:

Watch Nick Smith's report in full here: