With potentially just weeks to go before the UK leaves the European Union (‘Brexit’), the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) publishes its assessment of the potential impacts of Brexit and how it may affect the nations of the UK and Ireland. (1)
Yesterday, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at the Conservative Party Conference the government’s proposed deal on leaving the European Union. A letter and a detailed copy of the proposed offer is now being considered by the European Commission. At the conference the Prime Minister said he hoped that a deal could be agreed, but if it was not the UK would leave without a deal on the 31st October. Whether either action takes place remains to be seen, given the Parliamentary Act pushing back leaving the EU for a further three months is designed to stop a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario.
The NFLA Policy Briefing on ‘Brexit’ considers the core issues around leaving the EU in the following areas – its impact on environmental legislation, its challenges to climate change policy, the operation of the UK’s electricity markets with the EU and the ongoing operation of the All Ireland Single Electricity Market, the issues it may bring to the ongoing development of renewable energy, and the proposed changes of the Euratom nuclear safety arrangements in favour of a domestic regime overseen by the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR).
Amongst the main issues the briefing raises are:
- It is unclear whether the bills on the environmental legislative programme, which set out much of the post-Brexit environmental governance framework, will be revived. These bills on the environment, agriculture and fisheries need to be progressed to provide a stable legal framework after Brexit and, crucially, to address the environmental crisis affecting our wildlife, climate and natural resources.
- The ‘Greener UK’ coalition report notes that the increased risk of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit brings with it a raft of potential environmental consequences, ranging from harmful stockpiles of waste and lower chemical safety to threats to sustainable fishing levels in the event of potential disputes over access rights, as well as longer term fears that a sharp rupture from the EU would increase the chances of environmental regulations being diluted. (2)
- It is clear that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31st October, the environment will be much less well protected in all four UK nations.
- The UK exiting the EU without a deal remains a critical risk to urgent progress on energy and climate change policy. The key risks include the potential for a rise in energy bills owing to volatility in wholesale markets with prominent impacts on Northern Ireland; a drop in carbon price relative to the EU and a loss to the exchequer of over £1 billion in foregone auction revenue; and a significant impact on the automotive industry and the UK’s ability to assemble electric cars cheaply.
- Weakened relations between the UK and EU as a result of Brexit could hinder co-operation on tackling the climate crisis.
- If there is a ‘no deal’ Brexit, cross-border flows of electricity will no longer be governed by EU legislation. The UK’s net electricity imports reached their highest ever level in the first quarter of 2019. In total, European electricity imports made up almost 7% of the UK’s total demand, and the government hopes to increase imports to about 20% by 2025.
- The leaked “Operation Yellowhammer” document claims there will not be any disruption to gas and electricity interconnectors, and no immediate disruption in Northern Ireland, but there could be significant electricity price increases if the UK crashes out without a deal. (3)
- The island of Ireland faces a “rapid” breakup of its Single Electricity Market should the UK leave the European Union without a deal, according to Operation Yellowhammer.
- Exiting the UK’s single market for electricity without a deal could cost consumers up to £270m a year, according to analysis by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC). (4)
- Brexit may cause grid connection issues with Europe and within the island of Ireland for the renewable electricity industry. It may also impact on their supply chains, carbon pricing, access to skilled labour and the coordination of environmental standards.
- Whilst the UK Government claims all necessary measures are in place to ensure that the UK nuclear industry continues to operate with certainty in all situations, it is unclear whether a ‘no deal’ Brexit will impact on the post-Euratom nuclear safety arrangements.
NFLA is particularly concerned that a substantial hike in electricity and gas price just prior to the winter months could occur in a ‘no deal’ scenario. There are some suggestions electricity prices could go up by as much as a third. The impacts of fuel poverty are significant on a considerable number of people at the moment, and this could affect them and many more if a deal is not agreed upon.
UK & Ireland NFLA Steering Committee Chair, Councillor David Blackburn said:
“This sober and carefully considered report by the NFLA outlines a core list of environmental, energy, financial and safety concerns that could come out of Brexit, particularly in a ‘no deal’ scenario. Just 28 days before the UK could leave the European Union, these are times of real uncertainty. NFLA calls on a much greater level of clarity from the UK Government on the impacts of Brexit to nuclear, energy and climate change policy and to seek urgent resolution to them. This report highlights the real danger of a ‘no deal’ Brexit to all four nations of the UK and within the energy relationship between Ireland and Northern Ireland. It needs to be avoided or the most vulnerable people in our society that currently endure fuel poverty could be badly affected by increased electricity prices.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) NFLA Policy Briefing 193: Brexit – what may be the impact of a ‘no deal’ on nuclear, energy and climate policy, 3rd October 2019. The Policy Briefing is attached with this media release and is on the NFLA website.
(2) Greener UK Risk Tracker September 2019
(3) Operation Yellowhammer 2nd August 2019
(4) Business Green 10th December 2018