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Northern Ireland at risk of electricity black-outs under a no-deal Brexit, ministers warn

Northern Ireland at risk of electricity black-outs under a no-deal Brexit, ministers warn
4 min read

A no-deal Brexit could result in electricity blackouts across Northern Ireland, the Government has warned.


Ministers say that the UK electricity market, which is currently “coupled” with those in the EU to allow cross-border flows, will become detached if Britain crashes out without an agreement.

The revelation comes amid a fresh raft of technical notices issued by the Government into how Britain would cope under a no-deal scenario.

The Government says while measures have been taken to ensure supply continues in Great Britain, Northern Ireland could be hit because it operates a single market with the Republic of Ireland, governed through EU legislation.

UK ministers say they are “keen to work with” Irish ministers and the European Commission to try and agree the continuation of the Single Electricity Market will continue in any scenario.

However they add that contingency planning is underway to try and establish a separate Northern Ireland market and that “fall-back arrangements” to keep power flowing over the Great Britain-Northern Ireland interconnector may be needed.

“If such an agreement cannot be reached, there is a risk that the Single Electricity Market will be unable to continue, and the Northern Ireland market would become separated from that of Ireland,” the document states.

"Separate Ireland and Northern Ireland markets will be less efficient, with potential effects for producers and consumers on both sides of the border."

It added that the Government or the province’s regulator will look to ensure “adequate generation capacity is in place as far as possible” with a procurement process which relies on both existing generation and investment in new generation.

Elsewhere among the 29 new documents is a warning that British consumers could lose protections when buying goods and services from the EU and added that enforcing UK court judgements in consumer rights cases would become “more difficult”.

"As the UK will no longer be a Member State, there may be an impact on the extent to which UK consumers are protected when buying goods and services in the remaining Member States," the document states.

"UK consumers will also no longer be able to use the UK courts effectively to seek redress from EU based traders, and if a UK court does make a judgement, the enforcement of that judgement will be more difficult as we will no longer be part of the EU."

'BARELY SCRATCHED THE SURFACE'

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said of the notices: “The Government’s no deal planning won’t reassure anyone.

“Ministers have barely scratched the surface of what would need to be done in the event of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.

“Despite all the so-called no deal planning, the Government has yet to admit that a no deal would require a raft of substantial legislation to be rushed through Parliament, crucial stop gap agreements with the EU on matters relating to Northern Ireland and security, and the recruitment of thousands of custom officials. None of this is going to be done or ready by March 2019.”

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Tony Lloyd, said access to the European market was key to “keeping prices low for consumers and ensuring security of supply for Northern Ireland’s manufacturing sector”.

“For months now, the Labour Party has asked the Government to outline their plans for the future of the Single Electricity Market,” he said.

“How can the Government expect to attract and retain investment in Northern Ireland when they refuse to take the challenges ahead seriously?”

"The alternative to the SEM is retaining Northern Irelands outdated and environmentally damaging coal power stations.

Liberal Democrat MP and campaigner for pro-EU group Best for Britain Layla Moran said: “Layla Moran MP said: "Warnings of 34% bill increases and blackouts today were expunged and be replaced by 'effects' on consumers.

“But the truth, albeit hidden by civil service anodyne language is clear; a no deal Brexit could spark blackouts in Northern Ireland and higher bills for everyone else.

“We get so much from our power from Europe and this could be put at risk because of the government's mishandling.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said of the notices: "We have now published over 100 technical notices, giving individuals, businesses, public bodies and NGOs information and guidance in the unlikely event of no deal. 

“Securing a good deal with our EU partners remains our top priority. But, if the EU doesn't match the ambition and pragmatism we've showed, we have the plans in place to avoid, mitigate or manage the risk of no deal - and make a success of Brexit. "

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