Labour backs Sunak's Brexit reform in shock move

Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer has given his support to Sunak's Brexit reform

Tom Harwood

By Tom Harwood

Published: 29/08/2023

- 17:43

The Labour Party has made the surprise decision to back the Prime Minister's latest Brexit reform

The Labour Party is supportive of the Prime Minister's reform of nutrient neutrality laws, GB News understands.

The Tory Government has found a perhaps surprising ally in its battle to strip away burdensome regulations on housebuilders that have been enforced in a quarter of council areas of England so far, as a result of an EU ruling in 2018.

The rules, enforced by Natural England but originating from a Dutch case with the European Court of Justice, reinterpret the EU Habitats Directive, 26 years after being written.

This is the same case that sparked the famous Dutch farmers' protests and a sharp democratic backlash on the continent.

A new populist political party was formed in the Netherlands in response to the rules which has been leading in recent polls.

In the UK, however, the way the EU ruling was applied fell on housebuilders rather than farmers. This is due to the particularities of domestic courts, the environmental regulator, and UK planning system.

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak has received unexpected support from Labour


The rules in the UK mean that housebuilders in the 74 council areas affected (although this had been set to extend to the whole country) could not build a home without spending tens of thousands of pounds per home in offsetting schemes, converting productive agricultural land into wetlands that suck up nutrients.

This has made many developments impossible to deliver, and pushed up prices for others.

The Home Builders Federation estimates the rules, which effectively block development on many sites that already had secured planning permission, mean that the UK is building up to 160,000 fewer homes.

This comes in the midst of an acute housing shortage that has sent prices and rents soaring across the country.

Sir Keir Starmer has seized upon the housing crisis as a political issue, declaring that the Labour Party should "back the builders not the blockers", despite some of his own Labour colleagues continuing to campaign fervently against new housing, from backbencher Rupa Huq, to Starmer’s Shadow Ministerial colleague Matt Western.

Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Housing Secretary, has been determined to paint her party as committed to housebuilding.

She said: "The government is responsible for environmental policy" and "housebuilders should not be asked to cover for their abject failure", in comments that were surprisingly supportive of the planned reforms to nutrient neutrality, taking the regulatory burden off housebuilders.

A source close to Nandy told GB News that the party is waiting to see the full text of the government's amendments to enact its changes before deciding whether or not to vote for them in Parliament.

But GB News understands the Labour Party views the EU derived rules as a blunt tool that holds back housebuilding.

To see Labour and the Tories unite around pro-building policy would have been unimaginable just a few short years ago, and highlights how much more salient the housing crisis has become as a political issue, even in the face of loud environmental campaigning.

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