The head of the Hauts-de-France region in northern France warned the government in Paris on Friday against the discharge of untreated British sewage into the English Channel and the North Sea. Xavier Bertrand talks about an “environmental catastrophe” that he believes has worsened since Brexit.
The British seaside town of Whitstable is a picturesque seaside town and a popular getaway for wealthy Londoners. Swimming has been discouraged for the past week, after heavy rains caused sewers to overflow. Abundant sewage was diverted by water companies and discharged into the sea without treatment. There were already angry voices about this locally. The water company was quick to acknowledge that there was an “urgent need” and promised to invest in a better water policy. The problem occurred on nearly 50 beaches, mainly on the English south coast.
Meanwhile, the news also reached the other side of the channel. They can’t laugh at the discharges there. Three French MPs sent a letter to the European Commission asking them to take action against the United Kingdom. According to them, the British will not fulfill their obligations to environmental standards, endangering the beaches of France and marine life. They complain that the situation has worsened since Britain left the European Union.
The British deny there is a problem
Meanwhile, Xavier Bertrand, president of the Hauts-de-France region in northern France, wrote to the French Minister of State for the Seas, Herve Perville. The images, published by international media, show untreated sewage flowing abundantly into the Canal and the North Sea from UK shores. They have caused great concern due to the pollution from these discharges.” European Environment Commissioner Virginius Sinkevicius tweeted on Friday that the Commission is counting on the UK to meet its commitments.
A British government spokesman denied the BBC’s European allegations. Our environmental laws are much stricter than when we were part of the European Union. However, according to a study by LibDems, there is absolutely no oversight of water companies’ compliance with wastewater-related agreements.
In the English sewer system, which dates back to the Victorian era, rainwater and toilet water run through the same pipelines. In order to prevent flooding, it is common to discharge raw sewage into rivers and sea in rare cases. Because of the constant drought, water is absorbed less quickly into the ground, which increases the risk of discharge during sudden storms. “The Canal and the North Sea are not landfills,” stressed Stephanie Yon-Courtain, a French MEP.
Friend or foe?
Tensions between old foes France and the United Kingdom have risen again since Britain’s exit from the European Union. Previously, officials in both countries had been at odds with each other over the approach to boat refugees, fishing agreements and the Northern Ireland border.
When asked about Franco-British relations, Lise Truss, the current Secretary of State and first place To become prime minister, he said it was “not yet clear” whether French President Emmanuel Macron was “a friend or a foe”. Macron did not want to soften the words, but said that “we have a serious problem” because France and the United Kingdom “can’t tell if they are friends or enemies”. For him, there is no doubt: the United Kingdom is an ally of France.
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