It was a close-run thing. At 11pm tonight, the UK could very well have crashed out of Europe.
There would now have been wall-to-wall TV news coverage raking over the fallout from a Brexit process that has at times seemed like a high-stakes form of the old parlour game Consequences – with politicians making up the story one line at a time until the big reveal at the end when the piece of paper is finally unfolded.
But on Wednesday there was a twist in the tale once again when the EU granted the UK a new deadline of 31 October, if not before, leaving the government and opposition further time to wrestle over a compromise deal.
While the PM, who left Brussels with the EU’s message to Parliament of “don’t waste this time” ringing in her ears, is hopeful of thrashing out a new agreement with MPs by 22 May – avoiding the need for the UK to take part in European elections – others are less convinced.
All of this adds up to a nightmare exercise for editors striving to follow, let alone reflect, the impact of make or break national decisions.
Yet our problems pale into insignificance next to the concerns of utility companies attempting to chart a course through the chaos.
Chief executives and their teams have a mounting pile of pressing questions on their own Brexit to-do lists, awaiting direction from parliament and the EU.
For instance, how exiting the EU will affect new and existing contract obligations; the impact on major infrastructure plans; the future of interconnector projects; long-term nuclear strategy; and to what extent the UK will continue to apply or mirror EU environmental legislation, including on climate change.
Utilities, like businesses throughout the UK, need to quickly understand the likely macro impact of Brexit on investment, as well as the key opportunities thrown up our eventual exit from the European Union – with or without a deal.
Patience feels at breaking point as utilities, relatively quiet until now compared with just-in-time businesses, wait to know what all this will mean for them – and when any clarity might finally be emerging.
Surely the uncertainty can’t go on very much longer… can it?
- Utility Week’s Energy Summit ‘Delivering a robust future for UK energy in a post-Brexit landscape’ takes place in London on 13 June. Download details at https://event.utilityweek.co.uk/summit/