French MEPs demand EU action as British water companies dump sewage in the Channel

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French MEPs demand EU action as British water companies dump sewage in the Channel
The English Channel has once again become a political battleground between France and the UK, this time over sewage. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

Images of pipes discharging raw sewage into the Channel have sparked disgust in the UK, but also fury in France - just 42km away from the south coast of England.


The UK government's post-Brexit decision to allow water companies, in certain circumstances, to discharge untreated water and sewage into the country's rivers and the sea has led to more and more pollution alerts, with some beaches declared unsafe for swimming.

But pollution in the Channel also affects France, and now three French MEPs have demanded that the European Commission take action to protect the shared waters of the Channel.


Three MEPs - including France's former Europe minister - have released a statement accusing the UK of breaking both its post-Brexit commitments and UN conventions by allowing sewage to be discharged into shared waters.


"The Channel and the North Sea are not dumping grounds," said Stéphanie Yon-Courtin, member of the EU Fisheries Committee and a regional councillor for Normandy.

"We cannot tolerate the environment, the economic activity of our fishermen and the health of our citizens being seriously endangered by the repeated negligence of the United Kingdom in the management of its wastewater."

Fellow MEP Pierre Karleskind, Chairman of the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee, added: "We cannot accept that the United Kingdom parks its environmental commitments made at the time of Brexit and calls into question the efforts that have been made by Europeans over the past twenty years."

Natalie Loiseau, who was Emmanuel Macron's Europe minister before becoming an MEP for his LREM party, said: "The violation of the principle of non-regression of environmental protection levels provided for in the trade agreement with the United Kingdom must call for a response from the Commission."

The UK government did not respond directly to the French MEPs' claims, but a spokesman told the BBC: "The Environment Act has made our laws even stronger on water quality than when we were in the EU, from targets to tackle nutrient pollution to new powers to tackle harmful substances in our waters.

"We have also made it law for water companies to reduce the frequency and volume of discharges from storm overflows and made it law for water companies to install new monitors to report in real time any sewage discharges in their area."


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