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The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs under leading Brexiter Michael Gove is doing its best to avoid mentioning the European Union, even though recent announcements have largely been about EU initiatives.


A story about measures to stop plastic going into the oceans, for example, highlighted a speech by environment minister Thérèse Coffey at a conference in Malta in early October, while neglecting to mention it was an EU conference. Coffey cited the 5p charge on supermarket plastic bags as showing how the UK is a “global leader in protecting oceans and marine life.” She seemingly forgot to add the bag charge was introduced as a result of EU regulation and that England lagged far behind many other EU countries in getting round to imposing the charge.

Meanwhile, one of Michael Gove’s biggest announcements so far has been about elephants. On 6 October, DEFRA started a consultation on banning trade in items made from ivory, in order to kill demand for ivory from elephants murdered by poachers (trade in raw ivory is already largely banned). The ban would “put the UK front and centre of global efforts to end the insidious trade in ivory,” Gove said.

What he didn’t say was that the DEFRA consultation was more or less a cut-and-paste of an EU consultation that started in mid-September. The resulting rules will be almost exactly the same, down to the exemptions for musical instruments and items containing less than 200 grammes of ivory. As the United States already has such a ban in place, far from being at the forefront of global efforts to stop elephant killings, the UK will be… taking back control by following behind everyone else.

A version of this article was published in Private Eye.

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