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Joint Links REFIT

The Joint Links REFIT Task and Finish Group, was set up in June 2014 to address the EU review of the Habitats and Birds Directives. The REFIT initiative is the European Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme. This focuses on reducing ‘regulatory burden’, so as to meet EU policy and regulatory goals at least cost. The inclusion of the Birds and Habitats Directives within this process is the latest manifestation of the ongoing threats to the Directives which are widely viewed as one of the most important pieces of legislation protecting nature.

Chair: Kate Jennings, RSPB
Head of Policy and Campaigns: Spencer Clubb, Link


On 7 December 2016, the European Commission agreed that the Nature Directives should not be opened up and changed, but instead should be better put into practice to work as intended. This is a huge victory for nature protection across national boundaries. See Link's press release here.

REFIT Group:

The REFIT group is a Joint Links Task and Finish Group working together with our Sister Links, Northern Ireland Environment Link, Scottish Environment Link, Wales Environment Link, and members to ensure that the review is informed by the best evidence and has the best result for nature, people and business.

On 12 May 2015, 100 NGOs from across the four country Links jointly issued a position statement and press release on the review of the Habitats and Birds Directives.

Update from the Group:

Despite the Government’s proposals for a Great Repeal Bill to bring across EU legislation into UK law, the future of the Birds and Habitat Directives and other environmental legislation in the UK is uncertain. Link and its members will continue to work collectively to ensure that the UK’s environmental law and its enforcement is at the forefront of any Brexit discussions and this will now be the main focus of the group.

At the present time, the Directives still apply and the Group will look for opportunities to improve their implementation and reassert their effectiveness. The European Commission consultant’s report on the fitness check of the Directives was made public on 5 July, stating that ‘The Directives are fit for purpose’. This supports the Joint Links position statement on the Commission’s review Directives, which was signed by 100 NGOs last year. The UK public also expressed a huge level of support for the Directives, as set out in the response to the European Commission consultation (‘Nature Check’), and within Link’s proposals for better implementation of the Directives.

At the time of going to press, we are awaiting the results of a meeting of Commissioners, scheduled for early December, at which the Directives are expected to be discussed.

For further information, contact Spencer Clubb, Link’s Head of Policy and Campaigns.

Last updated: 1 December 2016.