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Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson pledges to continue to work with Europe to improve the environment

The UK will continue to work with Europe in a number of areas, including improving the environment, the former Mayor of London Boris Johnson has said.

Writing in his weekly column in The Telegraph, the bookies’ favourite to be the UK’s next prime minister said: “I cannot stress too much that Britain is part of Europe, and always will be.

“There will still be intense and intensifying European cooperation and partnership in a huge number of fields: the arts, the sciences, the universities, and on improving the environment.”

The EU leave campaigner’s words come after industry heavyweights within the environmental sector called into question the current Government’s intentions to drive initiatives in resources, the environment and the green economy, following last’s week’s European Union (EU) referendum.

With 52% of UK voters opting to leave the EU, many vital European environmental protections could cease to apply. This includes the UK’s obligation to recycle 50% of its waste by 2020, and any further targets set by the Commission’s Circular Economy Package.

Current Prime Minister (PM) David Cameron has said he intends to stand down as Conservative Party leader and as PM following the UK's decision to leave the EU.

The Environmental Services Association’s (ESA) executive director Jacob Hayler said: “The referendum result will extend and intensify the uncertainty around both our industry and the UK more generally.

“The danger now is that the waste and recycling sector is placed at the bottom of the Government’s in-tray. It is therefore vital for us to make the case for the circular economy within the UK and to highlight the advantages of a strong and competitive resource efficient economy. Once the dust settles it will be absolutely critical for investment in our industry that the Government acts quickly to set out the terms of a UK exit and what it means for the waste sector.

“Regardless of our membership of the EU, there is huge scope for the waste and recycling sector to do things better and for the UK to improve its resource efficiency. The public’s vote has been cast and, while there may be threats, we must turn it into an opportunity and press the Government for the long-term framework that the waste and recycling industry now needs more than ever.”

‘Fears over Brexit’

Renewable Energy Association chief executive Nina Skorupska said: “This result raises serious questions for investor certainty, energy security and much needed investment in the UK energy infrastructure.

“Energy policy must be a priority for the Government now, with industry needing reassurance and ministerial clarity on priorities. The first in this list must be confirmation of the 5th carbon budget, which will hopefully give some confidence in the long-term direction of UK energy policy.

“The vast majority of our members had fears of Brexit, and we will be consulting with them and government in the coming weeks to set out a plan for continued low carbon energy investment, deployment and assurance of the 117,000 jobs in this sector."

In a statement, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) added: “While it was conspicuously absent from the respective referendum campaigns, there is no hiding from the fact that EU membership has been a strong positive force for the quality of our environment and the associated benefits for our health, well being, jobs, skills, growth and general sustainability.

“Stepping out of the EU brings financial, policy, legal and performance uncertainty, which may well threaten a slow-down or reversal of the improvements we have enjoyed in recent years.”