Energy sector reacts to Brexit plan

The news we are leaving the Single Market as part of Brexit has caused mixed reactions from the energy sector. This morning the PM outlined her strategy for our exit […]

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By Sumit Bose

The news we are leaving the Single Market as part of Brexit has caused mixed reactions from the energy sector.

This morning the PM outlined her strategy for our exit from the EU in a speech which confirmed our departure from the Single Market and a host of other measures. She mentioned the energy sector as one vital area where she expected full co-operation to continue.

After listening to her speech the sector has reacted with a mix of hope and trepidation.

Trade

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK, said: “Trade with our European neighbours has enabled access to more diverse sources of electricity that contributes to our security of supply, it is therefore essential that we continue to have a relationship that allows the efficient flow of electricity and gas across borders.

“Brexit presents an opportunity for a bold and ambitious plan for energy with the UK showing global leadership in meeting climate change targets, with more jobs, investment and environmental benefits.”

Mike Hawes, boss of car manufacturers body the SMMT said: “We need government to deliver a deal which includes participation in the customs union to help safeguard EU trade, trade that is tariff-free and avoids the non-tariff and regulatory barriers that would jeopardise investment, growth and consumer choice.

“Achieving this will not be easy and we must, at all costs, avoid a cliff-edge and reversion to WTO tariffs, which would threaten the viability of the industry.”

Uncertainty

Schneider Electric, the French owned global giant was understandably more circumspect.

UK and Ireland Zone President Tanuja Randery said: “With the news that the UK will exit the European Single Market, the government needs to make it clear how we will maintain some control over the rules that regulate our ability to freely compete.

“The UK has always been a leader in energy and climate change. But if we are to maintain this in the evolving energy market, we must consider the risks that Brexit poses. The vote to leave the EU has already created uncertainty around energy interconnectors, and the way we take advantage of these, both in terms of existing and planned projects. It’s essential that energy remains high on the Brexit agenda as access to the single market is negotiated.”

Environmental concerns

Green groups were also concerned at our impeding exit from the Single Market.

Trevor Hutchings, Director of Advocacy at WWF-UK commented: “Getting the best deal for the environment was not among the 12 key objectives for the negotiations set out by Theresa May but the Government has pledged to leave the UK environment in a better state than it found it.  So, from the air we breathe to the soil we use and the water we drink, renegotiating our relationship with the rest of the EU presents a real opportunity, only if the Government makes enhancing environmental protections at home and abroad a priority.”

And Greenpeace UK’s Rosie Rogers said: “Whatever position people take on Brexit, it’s a fact that leaving the single market would undermine vital environmental and consumer protections we now take for granted. Many of the laws that keep our bathing water clean and control dangerous air pollution and toxic chemicals come from the EU.

“Without EU laws and courts to underpin and enforce them, they could be left at the mercy of ministers who may ignore them and scrap them with a stroke of the pen. Theresa May should give a firm guarantee that the world-class environmental laws built up over decades will not be swept away by a hard Brexit.”

Co-operation with EU

And the boss of the Renewable Energy Association Dr. Nina Skorupska called for immediate clarity on the Brexit plans and its effect on renewable investment.

She said: “In the short to medium term, how we leave the EU is fundamental to this sector. If we do this badly we will see rising bills for consumers, a deserted industry and threat to keeping the lights on.

“Every company in every sector wants a smooth, orderly and clear transition, yet the repercussions in this area are so wide ranging it has to be a top priority for the Prime Minister and her Government. Post Brexit there are still many areas we can, and should, work with the EU, with the Internal Energy Market and Climate Agreements being the two most important for our members.”