Donate to InFacts
Analysis

Brexit could put the lights out

by Nick Kent | 02.05.2017

An unexpected announcement in the government’s January 2017 white paper on Brexit was that the UK would be leaving Euratom, the EU’s nuclear energy community. Its justification was that Euratom, while legally separate from the EU, shares its institutions, including the European Commission and the European Court of Justice. MPs on the Commons Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Committee have published a report showing that this decision could lead to power shortages.

The referendum campaign turned up no great concern about how the EU’s energy policy works. Indeed, the committee finds that the UK overwhelmingly benefits from the EU’s energy market and the government should try to retain access to it after Brexit. The decision to leave will put at risk our ability to import energy through electricity and natural gas interconnectors linking the UK with a clutch of EU countries. Northern Ireland is particularly at risk because it is in a single energy market with the Republic. The committee reported that if we are outside the EU’s energy market, British consumers could have to pay more to heat and light their homes.

Withdrawing from Euratom, the MPs note, would mean the UK would be without the necessary independent safeguards for our nuclear energy industry that are required by international law. A quarter of Euratom’s safeguards team currently work on the UK’s nuclear power sector. The committee suggests that the UK should delay withdrawing from the Euratom Treaty to give more time for negotiating an alternative arrangement with the EU.

Want more InFacts?

Click here to get the newsletter

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Yet, as the committee points out, these alternative arrangements may be less effective than the present ones and could lead to higher prices for consumers. But there was no substantial discussion of this during the referendum. Did those who voted Leave want to pay more for their energy bills?

The unintended consequences of Brexit are now emerging. The energy sector is just one of many sectors of our economy that will be significantly affected. Take air travel. The UK’s withdrawal from the EU could lead not only to limits on British airlines’ access to the large and profitable EU aviation market, but to difficulties over air traffic control too. The UK will lose the benefits of the EU’s Open Skies agreement with the US; potentially difficult negotiations will be required to preserve British access to the lucrative US market. The food and drink sector faces similar complications: the EU accounts for seven of its 10 largest export markets.

Today’s report from MPs on the energy sector is another example of the difficulties of Brexit. It reinforces the need for the government to negotiate a constructive agreement that gives the UK maximum access to EU markets. Once again, the risks of a hard Brexit are exposed. Will the government act to prevent them?

Edited by Alan Wheatley

3 Responses to “Brexit could put the lights out”

  • The worrying thing is that if the debate becomes acrimonious many in our population may decide that they do not want to have anything to do with an organisation that shows such dislike of our country and will decide they will be prepared to accept any form of Brexit

    • yeah, I understand that it’s hard for Brexiteers to get their facts right. much less to engage brain before spouting their nonsense

      so, here is the scoop for poor little victim you :

      1) Euratom is an international organisation distinct from the EU, just like the ECHR or say UNESCO or NATO are.
      2) Euratom didn’t change of its rules against the UK. the UK government itself announced its intention to leave Euratom
      3) how can the UK pretend to be a responsible stakeholder and a trusted member (of any organisation), if it decides to burn the rulebook and apply rules only when it decides they serve its interest ?

      trumpian behaviour leads you nowhere but to misery

  • If you pull out of a complex arrangement as a stakeholder it goes without saying that the unforeseen cost of all parties negotiations (politicians time, civil servants and lawyers including other experts) will fall at the feet of the party that has caused the cost. In particular where there is no foreseeable benefit to the remaining members why are they expected to foot the bill for the time consuming negative and counterproductive mess that the UK have caused and insist on inflicting on the united europe?