Beyond Brexit

Published on:

Beyond Brexit

A personal statement on Brexit from Carol Ritchie. Executive Director, EUROPARC Federation

So it is finally happening. Brexit. Legally the UK leave at 11pm tonight 31st Jan 2020. But in reality, nothing really changes for another 11 months until end of 2020… then who knows…More limbo.

Over the last months and years, many have asked me of the implications and consequences for EUROPARC of Brexit. EUROPARC makes no assertions on the political choices of any country, but of course, politics is life, so we lobby and emphasise the need to value and support the protected areas therein, with any or all political groups.

So with respect to Brexit. EUROPARC remains, undimmed, the voice of ALL Europe’s Protected Areas.

By end of 2020, the ability for me personally, to represent you, may become a bit more complicated, but that is out of my hands, but will adjust and adapt as always to changing circumstances.

When I came to EUROPARC almost 12 years ago one of the very first things I was asked to do, was to rephrase and rewrite our aims and key messages. I wrote then;

Nature knows no boundaries. EUROPARC is founded on the principle that the future protection and conservation of nature is achieved through INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION.  International cooperation works best through PERSONAL CONTACT.  Through personal contact comes MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING, SHARED EXPERIENCES, KNOWLEDGE AND INNOVATION.  This delivers better support and management of protected areas which ensures the FUTURE PROTECTION AND CONSERVATION OF NATURE because Nature knows no boundaries.

That phrase has been replicated and used many times over.

But I would not stray from one word 12 years later. And that phrase remains my undiminished belief and passion for our EUROPARC. Brexit may test that, but will not break it.

The departure of the UK from the political European Union, despite my own personal feelings of dismay, should IN NO WAY alter, affect or influence these common values and principles.  The need to learn from each other, the need to raise standards in the management of protected areas, the need to conserve and protect our shared resources, the need to realise we are more interdependent and interconnected than ever, and the need to highlight the value and benefit of protected areas collectively, is something we do better as a common endeavour.

Many in the protected areas of UK share that belief, they may not be able to be as obvious in their support, due to current difficult politics, but they are there.

In my opinion, much about Brexit is unnecessary and disastrous and I do believe the UK will lose far more than it will gain. But as a family of protected areas, the constituent parts of the UK will continue to be essential to us. And we, in EUROPARC are a vital bridge between the islands and the continent.  I will make every effort to ensure our UK colleagues have every opportunity to remain a part of our shared future.

Bear in mind. 1/3rd of our membership are outside the EU.The UK will join their colleagues in the Council of Europe, where with our international observer status, I look forward to meeting them, representing them and working with them, there, under the auspices of the Bern Convention.

I abhor the idea of Brexit.  I hope for a different future for the European country I call home, but my belief in our EUROPARC to embrace the changes and continue to share “a cup o kindness .. for Auld Lang Syne“, will never diminish.

Carol Ritchie

31st Jan 2020