Single Irish electricity market must continue after Brexit, UK minister says

Robin Walker acknowledges challenges but says solution in ‘everybody’s interest’

Robin Walker: “We believe it is in everybody’s interest to come to a solution which facilitates the continuation of the single electricity market”

Robin Walker: “We believe it is in everybody’s interest to come to a solution which facilitates the continuation of the single electricity market”

 

The United Kingdom and the European Union must negotiate a deal that will allow the single electricity market on the island of Ireland to continue after the UK’s departure from the bloc, a Brexit minister told a conference in London on Friday.

Robin Walker said the creation of a larger wholesale market created opportunities to drive competition, increase liquidity, access a wider range of generation on the island, and share costs, including information-technology systems.

“We know that the single electricity market has helped contribute to downward pressure on prices and improved energy security across the island. The obvious benefits the single electricity market has brought to people across the island has therefore hardened our resolve that they are protected,” he said.

“We know there are challenges, of course. The single electricity market is an entirely unique arrangement, although the EU has been working towards closer integration across Europe . . . These challenges notwithstanding, we believe it is in everybody’s interest to come to a solution which facilitates the continuation of the single electricity market.”

“Lack of clarity”

Mr Walker was speaking at a seminar on the future of the UK-Ireland energy relationship hosted by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce and Energy UK, a trade association that lobbies on behalf of the energy industry. A number of speakers lamented the lack of clarity about what kind of trading relationship the UK wanted with the EU after Brexit.

Mr Walker said that, although the UK would leave the single market and the customs union, it wanted a close and ambitious relationship with the EU. “We want to see zero tariffs on trading goods and the minimum of regulatory and market-access barriers for both goods and services. We believe that such arrangements will be in the interests of those on both sides of the Channel and the Irish Sea.”

Before they start negotiating a future trading relationship, the UK and EU must agree the terms of a transition period for up to two years after Brexit. Mr Walker said the UK would follow all EU rules during the transition but wanted to be consulted about new rules. “We’ll want to agree with the EU a way of discussing any new laws that are brought in if we think they are harmful to our interests. This will ensure that the implementation period operates smoothly, allowing us to resolve issues promptly.”

John McGrane, director general of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, said the voice of business was more important than ever now the Brexit talks are entering a crucial phase. “The role of business is extremely important in providing practical, constructive, patient support to the work of politicians and negotiators, because we think the desire for co-operation is not a strategy any more than worrying is a strategy. But getting on with things we can do is a reasonable strategic approach.”