Air pollution is responsible for 50,000 preventable deaths in the UK every year. It bears repeating that these deaths are entirely preventable. Poor air quality is also linked to respiratory and heart diseases that can seriously blight people's quality of life. Everyone is at risk, but children are particularly vulnerable, and if their developing lungs are affected the damage is permanent and probably life-limiting. It is a public health emergency estimated to cost the UK £20bn a year. But it is not a uniquely British problem. In fact, air pollution has no respect for national borders. It is a truly cross-border issue. One which requires truly cross-border solutions.
The British government openly admits that its efforts to improve the quality of the air that we breathe have been driven by EU laws. These are EU laws drafted in cooperation and collaboration with our closest European neighbours. The totemic legislation is the 2008 clean air directive.
The directive set legally-binding limits on toxic air pollution in towns and cities across Britain. However, the European Union's influence on UK air quality dates back to the 1970s, with the clean air directive just the latest in a series of air quality laws that have helped tackle air pollution in Britain.