British Environment Secretary Michael Gove, a leading eurosceptic, suggested leaving the EU would make it easier for his country to take action to cut plastic pollution.
He told Sky News there were “a number of things, from banning plastic straws to ending the live export of animals for slaughter, where being outside the EU actually makes it easier for us to do the right thing”.
European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans responded on Twitter: “One step ahead of you. EU legislation on single-use plastics coming before the summer.
“Maybe you can align with us? #EUDoesntSuck #StrongerTogether #PlasticsStrategy.”
A few hours later, Gove hit back, noting “there has been no specific proposal — as yet — from the EU to ban straws”.
“Also waiting for the EU to catch up on microbeads — UK’s ban is 1st in Europe #greenbrexit,” he tweeted.
The European Commission announced plans in January to increase plastic recycling and phase out single-use plastic, but it has yet to publish legislation.
Gove told the Daily Telegraph newspaper to “watch this space” on a ban in Britain, although his ministry could not give any details about the proposals.
The spokesman for Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs noted the government’s committment to eliminating avoidable plastic by 2042, adding: “We are exploring a range of options.”