Brexit: Energy Security (European Union Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:34 pm on 6th June 2018.

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Photo of Lord Davies of Stamford Lord Davies of Stamford Labour 7:34 pm, 6th June 2018

My Lords, the report is excellent. With the leave of the House, I will quote a number of sentences from it. Paragraph 24 states:

“Whatever the final detail of the EU exit terms the UK is likely to be more peripheral to EU energy markets which will mean higher prices and more unreliable supply”.

Paragraph 29 states:

Post-Brexit, the UK may be more vulnerable to supply shortages in the event of extreme weather or unplanned generation outages”.

Paragraph 30 states:

“Energy UK claimed that operating in a less efficient market ‘will have an impact on consumer bills’”.

Paragraph 32 states:

“It is likely that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will lead to less efficient energy trade, which could in turn increase the price paid by consumers for energy security”.

Paragraph 55 states:

“Market coupling is currently estimated to be worth £100m/year to the UK … Energy UK argued that GB operators could be excluded from market coupling post-Brexit”.

Paragraph 56 states:

“In the absence of the REMIT Regulation, we would need to seek alternative arrangements to access this data and to facilitate information sharing”.

I will stop here but similar quotes are available right the way through the other 200 paragraphs of the document. Paragraph 62, which I think says it all, states:

“None of our witnesses expressed a desire to leave the IEM”.

In other words, the argument is completely one-sided. All sorts of people are pointing to the dangers and risks of Brexit to energy, such as leaving Euratom and, potentially, the IEM. No one is suggesting that it is a good thing. The House would be in dereliction of its duty if we simply ignored that fact. The British people are having serious energy costs imposed on them, which will affect every family in the country and impact on future economic growth, propensity to invest, output, employment and so forth, as sure as night follows day.

Who caused all this? Did some external enemy impose this on us? Are we the victims of an international conspiracy? Did the gods send a plague on us? Are we suffering from a curse of Zeus? No, this is a case of a Government deliberately imposing costs and risks on its people to a considerable degree. I cannot think of an analogy in history for what is going on at the moment with Brexit. This is true right across the piece, not just in the energy market but in pharmaceuticals, the automotive industry and civil aviation. As we saw in the previous debate, it is also true in financial services.

So it goes on. Every day, every week, the Government come up with proposals that they will ram through with their majority in the House of Commons—concocted from their relationship with the DUP—apparently irrespective of the cost to the British people. More and more of this comes along and we do not get any estimate of the cost to the British economy. When estimates are prepared by Whitehall, they are kept secret by the Government and we hear about them only through leaks. It is an absolutely extraordinary and disgraceful situation. We know the considerable potential cost of our leaving Euratom and that if we do so in a situation with no agreement to replace it, all sorts of disastrous things will occur: we will not be able to import radioactive isotopes, which will bring radiotherapy to an end in this country, costing lives, and so forth. That is quite horrific. We will have lorry-loads of vegetables rotting in the Port of Dover. All these things have been described by Whitehall and the departments that have been doing contingency studies into what might happen, but the Government have done their best to disguise them from the British public.

What can we do about it? It is extraordinary that leaving Euratom is an entirely gratuitous decision. There is absolutely no need whatever, simply because we leave the European Union, to leave Euratom. I know that if you ask the Government, “Why are you doing this?”, they will say, “Oh, because the British people voted for it”. The British people never voted for us to leave Euratom. I challenge the Government to give me one reference in the referendum campaign to Euratom or the energy market generally. There was not one. The British people were never told about the cost of this. The Government decided retrospectively, after the end of the referendum, that this was included in the vote. It was not at all. Why have they done such a thing? I think we all know the reason: because the Eurosceptics in the Tory party are holding the Prime Minister to ransom. She is afraid of 48 letters going to the chairman, Sir Graham Brady, if she does not satisfy their demands, so we are pushing through these policies, which are quite gratuitous, unnecessary and extreme costly. It is an extraordinary situation.

I do not think that the British public have fully understood what is going on. Of course, they will when the higher energy prices come through in a few years’ time if we go ahead with this programme. I have some simple questions for the Government. What is the cost to the British economy of leaving the EU? What is the cost to the British economy of leaving the internal energy market? What is the cost to the British economy of leaving Euratom? What is the maximum cost, if there is one, that the Government are prepared to pay to achieve these very dubious objectives?