Forget punishment: the Brexit deal needs to carve out sectors of exceptional common interest

 

mike-wilson-39902-unsplash.jpgMichael Grubb discusses how to go beyond the recent obstacles in the negotiations and the negative rhetoric by focusing on key sectors where interests are aligned. In his view, energy, climate and transport are the logical sectors from which to start the writing of a new  positive relationship.

So: at Salzburg the unstoppable force of Brexit finally met the immovable object of EU concerns about the integrity of its single market, and its insistence that the UK must be “either in or out”.  Teresa May is emphatic: she has made a proposal; the EU must respond not with rejection but with suggestions.

As it considers options, the EU’s core dilemma is that what it may see as legitimate defence of the EU’s interests risks being perceived and spun in sections of the UK as an attempt to punish. And one great lesson of history speaks to the EU’s conundrum: punishing countries, however tempting, is a road to disaster. The 1919 Treaty of Paris that imposed devastating reparations payment on Germany after the First World War – which led to enduring European and international crises culminating in the Second World War – is the classic, if extreme, example. In an increasingly fragile world, the UK and the EU need each other.

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The UK needs a new independent body to protect the environment after Brexit

File 20171107 1020 qm66hy.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1Environmental standards and accountability in the UK are profoundly shaped by EU legislation and policy, even the very softest of Brexits will expose gaps in the UK’s governance framework. Maria Lee, Professor of Law and co-director of the UCL Centre for Law and Environment, argues that new mechanisms are required to ensure accountability and protection of the environment in the UK after Brexit.

For four decades, EU legislation and policy has profoundly shaped the protection of the UK environment. It’s hard to predict exactly what Brexit will mean for Britain’s beaches, air pollution, recycling standards or wildlife conservation – but there is no doubt it will be significant. Continue reading

Would Brexit lead to lower UK energy prices?

lightbulbIf the UK were to leave the EU, would  British households face higher or lower energy bills? Nobody knows for sure, writes Stephen Tindale, Director of the Alvin Weinberg Foundation: it would depend on decisions taken and agreements concluded by a post-Brexit government. But claims from Brexiteers that leaving the UK would lead to lower energy prices are misleading. The reverse is more likely, according to Tindale.

Leading Leave campaigners Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Gisela Stuart argue that outside the EU British bills would be lower: “In 1993, VAT on household energy bills was imposed. This makes gas and electricity much more expensive. EU rules mean we cannot take VAT off those bills..”

VAT on domestic energy was not ‘imposed’ by Brussels: it was introduced by the Conservative government. EU rules state that, once introduced, VAT can be reduced to 5 per cent (as Labour did in 1997) but not to zero. Outside the EU, a British government could remove it. But this would cost around £1.6 billion a year. A future Conservative prime minister would be at least as committed to cutting the deficit as Cameron is.  Removal of VAT from domestic energy therefore appears unlikely. Continue reading

The costs and benefits of EU energy and climate policy

sky-clouds-blue-horizonMichael Grubb, Professor of International Energy and Climate Change Policy at UCL, examines claims that EU energy regulation increases the costs of UK energy bills and argues that many benefits are often overlooked.

With a speech today by Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, energy issues have exploded into the Brexit debate. Not before time. An article by Conservative MP Dominic Raab which accompanied his announcement of support for leaving the EU (Sunday Times, 21 Feb) stated that ‘skewed EU energy regulation will add £149 to bills by 2020.’  In an angry reaction to Rudd’s speech today, Matthew Elliot, the Vote Leave campaign chief executive, reiterated claims that EU regulation adds £billions to overall UK energy bills.

Irrespective of exact numbers, there appears to be a widespread belief by many who favour Brexit that the EU’s energy and climate policies impose significant, unjustified costs on the UK and that we could avoid these by leaving. Continue reading