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Strong intra-EU energy cooperation has helped develop strong ties between the UK and other European nations.

Brexit negotiations crucial for future UK energy supplies and nuclear safeguards

Energy policy offers the UK and EU an important opportunity to develop new models of partnership and common ground imperative to the UK’s future, according to a new Chatham House paper.

Staying Connected: Key Elements for UK-EU27 Energy Cooperation after Brexit – a jointly authored research paper by Chatham House, the University of Exeter and the UK Energy Research Centre – notes that strong intra-EU energy cooperation over the past decades has helped develop strong ties between the UK and other European nations.

Maintaining this with the EU27 on energy would bring clear benefits to the UK and its neighbours. Close cooperation will also be crucial for the UK to develop rules and regulations on nuclear safety and safeguards, as it looks to leave Euratom as part of Brexit. Close ties will also ensure that the UK's electricity system remains fully synchronised to Europe’s changing market, which will bring significant benefits as European economies look to decarbonise. As well, UK-EU27 cooperation will help the continuation of the Single Energy Market operating across the Republic of Ireland will maintain the gains made in security of supply and competition.

Co-author Antony Froggatt, senior research fellow in the Energy, Environment and Resources Department at Chatham House, said: “Maintaining close collaboration with the EU post-Brexit will be vital if we are to maintain energy security and achieve our legally binding emissions reduction targets. The UK should also remain committed to trebling its electricity interconnection by 2025, and enabling these to operate efficiently would be in consumers' long-term interests.”

Co-author Dr Matthew Lockwood, senior research fellow in the Energy Policy Group (EPG) at the University of Exeter, said: “The complexity and politically sensitive nature of the Brexit negotiations are already causing friction between the UK and the EU27. On energy policy, however, connected networks and mutual benefits from integrated markets mean that there is an opportunity for a positive outcome.”

The paper also notes that:

  • When the UK leaves the EU, it will need to explore domestic resources for future energy infrastructure funding. Currently, EU grants and European Investment Bank (EIB) loans account for around £2.5 billion of the UK’s energy-related infrastructure, climate change mitigation, and research and development (R&D) funding per year. Domestically, replacing these sources of finance will be necessary to ensure that the UK’s energy sector remains competitive and innovative.
  • The UK intends to leave Euratom, the treaty which established the European Atomic Energy Community and which governs the EU’s nuclear industry. This will have a significant impact on the functioning of the UK’s nuclear industry, particularly in respect to nuclear material safeguards, safety, supply, movement across borders and Research and Development. Achieving this within the two-year Brexit time frame will be extremely difficult. The UK will need to establish a new framework agreement to ensure nuclear safety and security to enable the UK to trade nuclear materials and comply to international norms
  • It is in both the UK’s and the EU27’s interests for the UK to continue to collaborate on energy policy with EU and non-EU member states. The best way to achieve this would be to establish a robust new pan-European energy partnership: an enlarged European Energy Union.
  • Without a willingness to abide by the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and in the absence of a new joint compliance mechanism, the UK may have to leave the EU Emissions Trading System – an important instrument in the fight against climate change.

Date: 9 May 2017

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