If your business is located in Belgium and oriented towards the Belgian market, not much will change. In Belgium, environmental law falls under the competence of the 3 Regions (not the Federal Government). These Regions will continue to implement EU Directives and apply EU Regulations as they do today. However, if your business is located in the UK or oriented towards the UK market, there might be some substantial changes. The immediate legal impact of Brexit will depend on (i) how the split is to be achieved and (ii) the final model put in place governing the UK’s relationship with the EU.
The UK may retain national laws that implemented the EU Directives. It seems likely to retain climate change and waste targets, but there will be certain areas where the UK Government will be encouraged to repeal or add “flexibility” to measures that are seen as restricting economic development and growth. Eg, port authorities and developers have criticised the restrictions that can be placed on developments by the Bird and Habitats Directive; also, the Environmental Impact Assessment for major developments has been criticised on cost and administration grounds.
After Brexit, the EU Directives will no longer directly apply in UK national law. Although the UK’s “Great Repeal Bill” will incorporate many EU regulations into UK law, this (national) law will no longer be updated by the European Court of Justice. In addition, environmental safeguards could easily be eroded with minimal parliamentary scrutiny.
In 2006, the REACH Regulation paced various requirements on EU manufacturers and importers to analyse and register the substances contained in chemicals for their safety and environmental impact. The REACH Regulation is directly applicable, and there is also a significant amount of soft law (in the form of a guidance) issued by the European Chemicals Agency. The UK may now (i) make a bilateral agreement with the EU, (ii) adopt an equivalent regime (the Norwegian model), or (iii) drop the regime entirely. In that event, UK-based manufacturers and sellers of chemicals would find that they could not market their products in the EU without, at the very least, obtaining a registration from the European Chemicals Agency, which would effectively passport the products throughout the EU. The key point is that, if UK-based exporters want to see their products in the EU, they will have to comply with many of the product-related laws and standards that currently exist or that will be imposed in the future. On the other hand, the UK is losing its ability to formally influence EU legislation.