THE BREXIT chaos is one of the main reasons the review of the Close Season is being delayed - as 350 Environment Agency staff have been hijacked away to work on leaving the European Union.

As the Brexit situation became increasingly unclear, eagerly awaited final recommendations on the river fishing Close Season review were postponed months until 2019. No actual date has been set for that.

Now Angler’s Mail can reveal 350 of the EA’s 10,500 workforce have been taken away to work on the Brexit mayhem. Another 50 have been redeployed from Natural England.

Mary Creagh, chair of Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee has published a letter from the environment secretary, Michael Gove, revealing the unexpected ‘hijack’ to Government body DEFRA.

A DEFRA spokesperson said: “Over 80 per cent of Defra’s agenda is affected by Brexit and as a result a number of staff from across the Defra group are now supporting our comprehensive programme of work.

“But we are clear this must not impact our commitment to protecting our environment and the vital work of the EA in areas such as flood protection or tackling waste crime.

“Across Government we are working hard to carry out extensive preparations ahead of the UK’s departure from the European Union as is the duty of a responsible Government to prepare for a range of potential outcomes including the possibility of a ‘no deal’.

“The Close Season consultation and the National Angling Strategy are both scheduled for next year. Their final timetables are unrelated to EU exit work,” the spokesman added.

Brexit affects ‘overworked staff’

Angling Trust chief executive Mark Lloyd commented: “Brexit is causing a lot of delays to action by Government and its agencies by blocking legislation, creating huge uncertainty about future policy and distracting already overworked staff.

“It also puts at risk some vital protections for the environment which have been very useful to us in challenging the Government over the past decade, including through the courts.

“This loss of staff from the EA will further diminish the regulator’s ability to do its job and fulfil its statutory duties to maintain, improve and develop fisheries, coming as it does on the back of a decade of savage and repeated cuts.

“Pollution incidents are often not investigated and rarely lead to prosecutions.”

Fisheries funding cut by 76%

“The Angling Trust has revealed this week some shocking new figures showing that the Government has cut funding for fisheries by 76 per cent over the past ten years.

“This means that anglers are now funding nearly 95 per cent of the cost of providing the essential service offered by the highly dedicated fisheries team.

“This Government once claimed it would be the ‘greenest’ ever and has promised to be the first to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation, but there is little evidence that these are any more than empty words,” Mark concluded.

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