Michael Gove
Image caption Michael Gove said the body would “hold the powerful to account”

Northern Ireland and other devolved regions would be consulted on a new independent body for environmental standards after Brexit, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said.

Mr Gove said the body would “hold the powerful to account” and deliver a “green Brexit”.

In an article for the Sunday Telegraph, he said the watchdog would have “real bite” but did not outline exact powers.

He said devolved regions could decide if they wanted a similar body.

In a statement, Mr Gove said: “Today we are setting out our plans to ensure the powerful are held to account.

“We will consult on creating an independent body – encouraging transparency and preventing careless or irresponsible behaviour damaging our natural environment.”

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Image caption Some MPs have expressed concerns that Brexit poses a risk to UK wildlife and habitats

He added: “One of the key questions, which we will explore with the devolved administrations, is whether Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland wish to take a different or similar approach.

“We want to hear from as many people and organisations as possible right across the UK – from business, NGOs, the farming sector, civil society, and elsewhere.”

In 2015, then Northern Ireland Environment Minister Mark H Durkan called for an independent environmental protection agency.

Speaking at an Environment Ireland conference in Dublin, Mr Durkan expressed his concerns about the merger of the agriculture and environment portfolios in Northern Ireland.

“One of the key weaknesses in the envisaged arrangements is the lack of governance where the issue of environmental protection is concerned,” he said.

Image caption Former NI environment minister Mark H Durkan previously called for an independent environmental protection agency.

“The most obvious way to deal with this issue is to have an independent Environmental Protection Agency set up in Northern Ireland.

“Looking further down the track, I see no reason why an agency with this specific mandate could not be established on an all-island basis.”

Mr Durkan later said he had met resistance from some executive colleagues to the idea.

Mr Gove’s plans come amid concerns that environmental regulations enshrined in EU law could be lost after Brexit.

He said the watchdog would be independent of government and “able to speak its mind freely”.

“It will be placed on a statutory footing, ensuring it has clear authority,” he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

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