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Will Brexit Affect UK's Energy Relationship with EU?

27 November 2017, 23:07 CET

Richard Harrington from BEIS has told House of Lords select committee that the government is prioritising energy-related Brexit negotiations, with a view to keeping existing arrangements almost identical.

Nuclear power plant 

Harrington told the committee that he did not believe Brexit would affect the UK's energy supply as it was competitive, well-functioning and resilient.

A Diverse UK Energy Market

He added that the diversity of renewables and nuclear energy markets have enabled the UK to achieve relative independence from the EU. The UK also benefits from existing electricity connections with other EU countries, so it is not reliant on any one area of supply.

Interconnection with Europe is a growth area in the UK's energy market, despite negotiations to leave the EU being well underway. The UK needs to trade energy with Europe in order to boost energy supply capacity. We have existing electricity connections with Europe and a further four electrical interconnection schemes with France, Belgium and Norway under construction. Brexit will not affect these projects.

Secure Energy Supplies for UK Businesses

Harrington reassured the committee:

"We will always make sure we have sufficient energy security, whether through domestic or imported means, in the capacity market as well."

The select committee expressed concern that energy prices would rise post-Brexit, but Harrington was at pains to reassure them this would not happen.

"It is our policy to maintain an affordable energy supply for the UK, and for the EU it is the same."

Brexit negotiations have not moved forward at a pace the government would like and it is impossible to assess future costs until arrangements have been finalised, but Harrington is confident the energy market will remain robust post-Brexit.

This should provide some measure of comfort to UK businesses, many of whom are concerned energy prices will rise once the UK leaves the EU. Right now, UK businesses can compare energy prices on utility consultancy sites, but rising costs could affect profits and put smaller businesses in jeopardy.

Government to Prioritise Nuclear Research

The UK government is keen to prioritise nuclear energy in Brexit negotiations. The government wants to continue maintaining a close collaboration with our nuclear research partners and has committed to underwriting government funding for joint nuclear projects until 2020. Harrington told the select committee that the government has pledged to help maintain future EU collaboration in research and innovation.

Brexit Impact on Euratom

The select committee quizzed Harrington on what will happen when the UK leaves Euratom. There are many issues to consider, not least ownership of equipment.

Harrington reassured the committee that, so far, discussions have remained largely positive. He told the committee that current regulatory procedures would remain in place and that the government would ensure safeguarding arrangements are intact when the UK finally departs the EU.

It is in everyone's interest for energy relationships with the EU to continue as they are. If things fall apart, both the UK and the EU will lose out.

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