A new campaign group has warned that the UK would become the “dirty man of Europe” if it left the European Union (EU).

The steering committee Environmentalists for Europe (E4E) – which includes Lord Deben, Chair of UK Climate Change Committee, Green MP Caroline Lucas and television presenter Bill Oddie – argued that European legislation protects the nation’s air, water and wildlife.

Members of the committee warned that such safeguards could be eroded if Britain left the EU.

They highlighted the situation that existed before Britain joined the-then European Community.

EU made us ‘clean up our act’

Craig Bennett, Chief Executive of environmental charity Friends of the Earth, said: “When the UK joined the EU in 1973, it was dubbed the ‘dirty man of Europe’ thanks to its out of control pollution.

“It’s no fun wading knee-deep through sewage when paddling at the beach.

“Neither is seeing forests across Europe dying as a result of the acid-rain pollution belching from the UK’s coal-fired power stations.

“This was the reality before the EU stepped in and made successive UK governments clean-up our act.”

> Read Bennett's comments in full