House of Commons Library

Brexit: energy and climate change

Published Friday, November 9, 2018

A House of Commons Library Briefing Paper discussing key energy and climate change policy in the UK, the status of related Brexit negotiations and the possible impact of Brexit on these policy areas, including in relation to a no deal scenario.

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Brexit has potential impacts on both UK and EU energy and climate change policy.

Brexit and energy

Although Member States remain ultimately responsible for the energy supply to their citizens, and for deciding on the most appropriate energy mix, the UK and EU energy sectors are integrated through trade, directives and interconnection of energy supply.

There is currently uncertainty about the Brexit impact on a number of issues including: the UK’s departure from Euratom, the future of the EU internal energy market (IEM) and the status of the single electricity market (SEM) on the island of Ireland.


The Government announced that the UK would be leaving Euratom as part of Brexit in March 2017. Leaving Euratom has the potential to impact the UK’s current nuclear operations, including fuel supply, waste management, cooperation with other nuclear states, supply of medical radioisotopes, and nuclear research.

The Government’s July 2018 White Paper on the Future Relationship between the UK and the EU proposed a “close association” with Euratom that would be “more comprehensive and broad than any existing agreement between Euratom and a third country”.

More information is available in the Library briefing paper on Euratom.

EU internal energy market (IEM)

The UK has four interconnectors with Europe and the island of Ireland and more are planned. The UK is currently a member of the EU internal energy market (IEM) which allows harmonised, tariff-free trading of gas and electricity across Europe through interconnectors.

The UK has said it wants to “explore” options for the future relationship of the UK with the IEM but has not made commitments to try to retain membership of the market.

Northern Ireland

The island of Ireland has operated a Single Electricity Market (SEM) for many years which allows free trade of power across the island. A new Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM), designed closely around the rules of the IEM, was launched in 2018. In the longer term regulatory divergence could be problematic for the continued functioning of this Irish market. There are also potential impacts on Ireland’s gas supply as a result of the UK exit.

Brexit and climate change

The level of the UK’s involvement or future cooperation with EU climate change efforts remains subject to ongoing negotiation. The Government’s July 2018 White Paper on the Future Relationship between the UK and the EU committed to maintaining high domestic standards on climate change and continuing to meet international obligations in this area. However, it left open the option of whether the UK wishes to stay in the EU emissions trading scheme and ruled out the possibility of a common rulebook on wider climate change rules. The European Council’s guidelines on future EU-UK relations required continued close cooperation in the area of climate change.

Background information on UK domestic climate change policies and carbon budgets is available in the LIbrary Briefing on the UK Fifth Carbon Budget.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8394

Authors: Suzanna Hinson; Sara Priestley; Paul Bolton; Jack Miller

Topics: Climate change, Energy, EU law and treaties

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