Government to keep Brexit energy options open

Ministers are keeping all their options open regarding Europe’s internal energy market when the UK exits the European Union (EU).

In its 75-page white paper outlining its plans for Brexit, the UK Government highlighted the importance of Great Britain’s existing interconnectors with Belgium, France and the Netherlands, and the importance of proposed links with other countries.

“These coordinated energy trading arrangements help to ensure lower prices and improved security of supply for both the UK and EU member states by improving the efficiency and reliability of interconnector flows, reducing the need for domestic back-up power and helping balance power flows as we increase the level of intermittent renewable electricity generation,” the white paper said.

“We are considering all options for the UK’s future relationship with the EU on energy, in particular, to avoid disruption to the all-Ireland single electricity market operating across the island of Ireland, on which both Northern Ireland and Ireland rely for affordable, sustainable and secure electricity supplies.”

But commentators pointed out that ministers have not ruled-out leaving the internal energy market.

Tackling climate change

Environmental campaigners gave a cautious response to the white paper’s promises on climate change and the environment.

Samuel Lowe, a campaigner at charity Friends of the Earth, said: “The commitment to bring current environmental regulation into UK and devolved law is welcome but, as always, the devil will be in the detail.

“We need more information regarding how this will work in practice, and additional measures and institutions will be needed to ensure it continues to be properly upheld and enforced.

“The Great Repeal Bill must ensure that any future changes are made by parliament, and not on the whim of ministers.”

Lowe added: “The fact the government has chosen not to throw the baby out with the bath water and leave open the possibility of remaining part of certain EU regulatory bodies is sensible.

“Continuing to maintain a level regulatory playing field on issues such as chemical safety with our European neighbours is not only good for people and the environment, it makes sense for business too.”

Labour’s divisions

A day before the white paper was published, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, Rachael Maskell, resigned from leader Jeremy Corbyn’s front-bench team after he instructed his MPs to back Brexit.

“I believe that Theresa May’s Brexit ‘plan’ is creating an unjustifiable level of risk at a time of national and international uncertainty and volatility, with silence on national security measures, no mention of climate change mitigation or environmental protections, and no guarantee of good jobs or employment rights,” Maskell said.

MPs voted by 498 votes to 114 to begin the Brexit process.

> Download the white paper