Political Agenda: Article 50 will trigger more than Brexit
Officially starting the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will also intensify worries about alterations to the European energy market, says David Blackman
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The die is cast. This week’s vote in the House of Commons to endorse the government’s bill to withdraw from the European Union means that Theresa May is now free to give formal notice that the UK is leaving the EU by triggering Article 50.
However the momentous move won’t happen instantly. Government sources were hinting, before Utility Week went to press, that the actual notice would not be served until later this month.
However, even by then, the government is unlikely to have answers to utilities’ concerns about the impact from Brexit on the UK’s energy market.
The most significant worry is the UK’s continued participation in the European single energy market.
With seven interconnectors under construction to add to the four existing ones, the trend has been in recent years towards closer co-operation on energy matters across the EU.
Utilities hope that the self-evident benefits of the internal energy market should ensure that it is in the interests of both the EU and the UK to establish the kind of transitional deal that will preserve the bulk of existing arrangements.
However it is hard to see how co-operation on energy could be preserved if Britain crashes out of the EU without a trade deal as the prime minister is threatening could happen.
Anything that results in a more insular UK energy market is likely to lead to more expensive bills for consumers though.
With ministers increasingly under pressure over power prices, evident in this week’s House of Commons debate on the issue, this is the bread and butter language that the internal energy market’s champions will have to talk in order to get a hearing.