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Save the rhino from (Liam) Fox: Andy Murray and Anna Friel spearhead campaign to protect endangered species wildlife fund after Brexit

By Glen Owen, dailymail.co.uk

219 days ago   Article ID# 4129838
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World Wide Fund for Nature

LONDON, U K (dailymail.co.uk) - Sir Andy Murray is spearheading a powerful campaign to lobby the Prime Minister against post-Brexit plans to curb efforts to protect endangered species.

The Wimbledon champion has joined forces with a string of public figures – including Boris Johnson’s father Stanley – following last week’s disclosure in The Mail on Sunday that diplomats were being secretly briefed by Liam Fox’s department to stop working on environmental issues to concentrate on striking new trade deals.

In a letter to Theresa May, the 27 signatories, who also include former Bishop of London Richard Chartres, actress Anna Friel and Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden, warn against a ‘race to the bottom’ on wildlife protection.

Pictures of private Government briefing documents, being prepared on public transport by an official working for Dr Fox, the International Trade Secretary, revealed that envoys were being told to ‘scale down’ work such as combating the illegal wildlife trade.

It means that diplomats in African and Asian countries are to be taken off duties such as tackling the poaching of rhinos and elephants so they can concentrate instead on trade negotiations.

The letter to the Prime Minister, which is backed by every major environmental campaign group including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Born Free Foundation, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Greenpeace and the RSPB, says that the signatories have been ‘alarmed’ at the proposed ‘watering-down’ of environmental commitments, despite the Government promising ‘to leave the environment in a better state for future generations’.

It goes on to say that the ‘wildlife-rich’ countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia need help ‘to develop their economies sustainably’, and concludes: ‘To be a great, global trading nation, the UK must deliver on its promises for the environment and the climate and honour our international commitments.

'In doing so we will help build a greener, better and more prosperous future for everyone, rather than driving an environmental race to the bottom.’

More than 1,300 rhinos and about 20,000 elephants are killed across Africa every year by poachers to feed illegal markets.

Sir Andy, the world number one tennis player, works as a global ambassador for the WWF and has campaigned against the illicit import of rhino horn in countries such as Vietnam, where it is used as a medicine to treat everything from cancer to hangovers.

This newspaper obtained pictures of the documents on the 0722 Putney to London Waterloo train last month as Dr Fox’s officials prepared for a private briefing session.

The documents highlight the mutual suspicion which has grown between Dr Fox’s Trade department and diplomats, stressing that the Foreign Office wanted Fox’s trade officials to ‘work closely’ with them.

But it was the shift in diplomatic responsibilities away from wildlife protection that has proved most controversial, with envoys being told that ‘trade and growth are now priorities for all diplomatic posts’.

Campaigners warn Mrs May that an African elephant is poached every 25 minutes, and on current trends we face a 67 per cent decline in global wildlife by 2020 from 1970 levels.

WWF chief executive Tanya Steele said: ‘Our environment must not be sacrificed during the Brexit negotiations.

The Government must deliver on its promises and leave the environment in a better state for future generations rather than trading away protections for our nature and climate.’

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron added: ‘The Mail on Sunday is to be congratulating for exposing scandalous attempts to negotiate away in secret our wildlife for some grubby, underhand trade deal that wouldn’t even be necessary if we stayed in the Single Market.’

The Foreign Office insists the UK will ‘remain a global leader’ in tackling the illegal wildlife trade despite the demands of Brexit.

Copyright 2017 dailymail.co.uk   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 219 days ago   Article ID# 4129838

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