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It is time for clear thinking in a post-EU country

By Ruth Slavid

© Agnese Sanvito

As we become used to the idea that the UK will be leaving the European Union, there are, despite the current uncertainty, two things of which we can be sure.

The first is that the country will be going. And the second is that there is an awful lot of sorting out to do. For the landscape professions, this means looking at both short-term and long-term consequences.

The Landscape Institute produced a briefing in July which clarified some important points, while acknowledging how much there is still to learn. The first point is a reminder that current EU legislation on issues such as habitats, birds, clean water, and environmental impact assessment has been transposed into UK law and will remain valid until a future UK parliament decides otherwise. That will not change for at least two years after article 50 is activated by the UK government.  

Similarly, since the UK is still a member of the EU, LI members are still entitled to work and bid for contracts in the EU, and EU citizens can still come to work here.

In terms of technical matters, the UK is a full member of the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and adopts its standards as UK national standards. Once the UK leaves the European Union, UK organisations will still be subject to European Standards, in the same way as other non-EU members of CEN. 

The British Standards Institution (BSI) will still be a voting member of CEN, like European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members, and there is no suggestion this will change. 

However leaving the EU will mean the UK won’t be party to any discussions between CEN on the specific needs of the EU in relation to a given standard, nor to the discussions about mandates or decisions about harmonised standards.

Education is another area of concern. The LI is a leading member of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA World), of which IFLA Europe is an integral part. A condition of IFLA Europe membership is the mutual recognition of accredited academic qualifications across the European region of IFLA. This means that LI-accredited academic qualifications are recognised by IFLA Europe members, and academic qualifications accredited by IFLA Europe members are recognised by the LI. 

This recognition will continue regardless of Brexit, and graduates of LI-accredited courses will continue to have a valued, portable qualification.

More worrying is the fact that the long term future of UK participation in European science programmes will be decided as part of the UK’s exit negotiations. 

Since the LI is a globally recognised professional body, supporting its members across 45 countries, it has strong international links that will not be affected directly by Brexit. Chartered membership of the LI will continue to be a highly valued and portable professional qualification.

Both those who were bitterly disappointed by the result of the referendum and those who could hardly contain their glee will agree that what landscape professionals need are clear-headed, influential and accountable people who can put forward cogent arguments to guarantee the best future for this country. After such a tumultuous time, it is unsurprising that emotions ran high on both sides. But after a while we will realise that emotion is the last thing needed in this situation.

Clear heads, commitment and intelligent questioning by the Landscape Institute will be essential if it is not only to add its voice but to be heard as the future of this country is determined.

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