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30/09/2016

EU to blame for UK flooding, say Eurosceptics

Climate & Environment

EU to blame for UK flooding, say Eurosceptics

Flooding in York, December 2015.

[Alexis/Flickr]

David Cameron’s government is taking criticism from all sides, as flooding leaves large parts of the United Kingdom under water. Our partner Journal de l’Environnement reports

The scenes in Britain are becoming painfully familiar. Just one year after the dramatic floods that ravaged southwest England for several weeks, winter storms are once again causing havoc across large areas of the United Kingdom.

During the month of December, the island was battered by three severe storms that saturated the earth and caused many rivers to burst their banks. At the beginning of the month came Storm Desmond, which submerged several towns in northwest England and cut the power to 60,000 houses.

Then came Storm Eva, and a week later, on 30 December, Storm Frank which flooded more than 7,000 buildings in the north and east of England, in Scotland, Ireland and North Wales. KPMG has estimated the damage so far at close to £6 billion (€8.2 billion). These floods have already cost nearly twice as much as those of 2007, and they may not be over yet.

Old rumours

David Cameron’s government quickly mobilised 1,500 soldiers, 500 of which were sent straight into rescue operations. The British prime minister was also quick to announce the release of £40 million (€54.6 million), with a promise to allocate a further £2.3 billion (€3.1 billion) to flood prevention by the end of his mandate. But that has not been enough to appease his critics.

Some believe, without proof, that the flooded areas have been deliberately left under water to preserve the rich areas in central and southern England. Similar rumours made the rounds in France in 2001 and 2011, after the flooding of the river Somme, which stopped short of Paris.

Paradoxically, this crisis has also provided an outlet for climate-sceptic and anti-European sentiments. In an editorial published in The Sun, climate and Eurosceptic James Delingpole blamed the flooding on the EU Water Framework Directive, which prohibits governments from dredging rivers. A similar opinion was aired by Viscount Matt Ridley, a Conservative peer and journalist, in a column in The Times.

On the other end of the political spectrum, The Observer pointed out that the Conservative government had cut funding for flood defence schemes, despite being warned that the risk of major climate events was increasing. 

The European Commission has denied that EU law stops member states from dredging riverbeds.