Ignoring the farcical political campaign that is fast becoming embarrassing on all levels Steve England has a quick look at what Brexit would mean for surfers on a day to day basis.

I guess we (or I as I am writing this, me) need to put a disclaimer in here as to political inclinations. I pretty much look at 99% of politicians with complete disdain … the others I just don’t trust.

So Brexit.

As a surfer for over 38 years and a founding member of SAS I remember life before the EC well. A lot of time we surfed in foam that would come up to your armpits at Porthtowan. St Agnes was just brown with shit. It was laced with pieces of human turd, tampons, sanitary towels and condoms. I surfed right around the UK and on any popular beach with an outfall nearby it was the same. Oh how we laughed.

The Conservative government of the time, indeed Mrs Thatcher herself, said, “ There is no raw sewage discharged off our (UK) coasts.” It was a line they stuck to no matter what. Most Conservative MPs were equally as misinformed, including Lord Coe, who was Falmouth MP for some time. On the other side and over time there were a couple of MPs in the Liberal and Labour party who were onside and helped in the fight for clean seas, but they were small in number. The fact is the major influencer on environmental standards forcing the water companies to treat sewage was the EC Bathing Water directive.

The politicians had their heads in the sand, as most do today. The water companies were useless, much as today. And the watchdogs were toothless, much as today.

This is not opinion, this is a fact. If it were not for the EC I have little doubt we would still be surfing in shit. And having dealt with a lot of the above in the present day I have no real expectation of them to change if we left the EC. My opinion is they are, for the most part, self-serving with no respect for surfers or any beach lover and water user.

Money talks. Water companies and polluters have lots of it…


SAS put it in a more politically correct manner:

“These Directives have been fundamental in the protection of our wild world over the last 25 years and offer us strong and proven route to tackling the pollution and destruction that continues to threaten our environment.

European legislation, gave a structure for protecting our beaches from continuous sewage pollution, including new obligations and timescales to install full sewage treatment works around the country. More specifically, these were the Bathing Water Directive, the Water Framework Directive, and the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive in 1991, which was the real game-changer in terms of introducing vastly improved sewage treatment facilities nationwide.”

At the moment the EC is strengthening it’s directives on bathing water with tighter standards and it will continue to do so over the years as well as addressing an EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive and proposed Circular Economy Directive to combat marine pollution through plastics and the like. The UK water companies and polluters would LOVE it if we pulled out of the EC and these directives went out of the window.

There is no strategy to hold these people to account should we Brexit, and I wouldn’t hold your breath for anything coming soon.

Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage says “Over the last 25 years, EU Directives have undoubtedly helped drive huge improvements in bathing water quality at beaches around much of the UK. The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and Bathing Water Directive in particular provided Surfers Against Sewage with a powerful legislative framework on which to deliver highly effective water quality campaigns ensuring water companies and regulators delivered, and continue to deliver, cleaner, safer seas for everyone. In 2016, European legislation continues to underpin the next phase of our water quality campaigns to stop marine sewage disposal via coastal combined sewer overflows.”

Vote as you will, just remember the lessons this story has taught us. Personally I don’t to want go back to this.


A few quotes that may help your decision

“A Britain outside the EU could in theory follow Norway and set high environmental standards. But most UK politicians regard them as ‘green frippery’ – Stephen Tindale, former head of Greenpeace.

“It is European directives which have forced the sewage out of Britain’s bathing waters and the acid rain out of Britain’s atmosphere; which are getting rid of the most dangerous chemicals in our environment and the carbon pollution of our motor vehicles; which are pushing the clean-up of our rivers and the switch to renewable energy; and which, of course, are watching over our wildlife, and that of the rest of Europe.” – Michael McCarthy, journalist

“As a boy, trips to the coast were often spoiled by filthy beaches and sewage-filled seas. The prevalence of acid rain won us the title of ‘dirty man of Europe’. Thanks to EU action, this now a thing of the past. The UK cannot win the battles of the future – against climate change, air pollution and the destruction of the natural world – on its own.” Craig Bennett, director of Friends of the Earth

“The environment doesn’t stop at country borders and UK air and water quality depends on agreement with our European neighbours on high standards. Europe’s environmental policy has grown to become the core framework in most areas of environmental policy.” Baroness Young, former chair of English Nature and chief executive of the Environment Agency.