Brexit has been a reality since January 1, 2021! After four years of discussions, disputes-reconciliations, dramas, various announcements, the parties finally came to an agreement “just in time” …
At the deal level, energy was arguably more of a priority for the UK than for the European Union (EU). Brussels has smartly managed to use it so that London remains (+/-) close to the EU energy policies … In short, Brussels allows the British to keep their access to the EU market, if London just as generously allows European fishermen to access its seas. If the UK restricts this maritime access in 2026, then Brussels could revise its cross-Channel ambitions on energy downwards. Future will tell…
More than four years after the British referendum, eleven months after the agreement to withdraw the United Kingdom from the EU and following lengthy and complex negotiations, this Brexit agreement devotes an entire chapter to energy, and several annexes and statements deal with energy and climate issues.
The 2015 Paris Agreement is a cornerstone of the future relationship between London and Brussels. The parties indicate their willingness to meet their climate commitments.
In general (energy and other subjects), the parties set up a “Partnership Council”, a structure co-piloted by London and Brussels, for the governance of the future relationship. This body deals with regulatory cooperation, dispute settlement (before arbitration) and may adjust certain points of the future relationship, propose additional agreements, etc.
It will oversee some twenty specialized committees, made up of European and British officials/experts. One will be devoted to energy, but others can indirectly also deal with energy issues, in terms of subsidies, public procurement, fair competition or sustainable development.
These committees will manage the relationship on a daily basis. Specific working groups may also be set up.
One of the important points of the “deal” aimed to ensure a free trade agreement without quotas, without customs duties, with extensive regulatory cooperation without future British (or European) standards being able to create a situation of unfair competition.
The deal addresses this problem in two ways.
First, sectoral cooperation such as energy is integrated into a framework agreement with trade relations. Then, London accepted fair competition measures, binding commitments so that its future standards could remain consistent with the EU standards.
These commitments consist first of all of a non-regression clause, in which London undertakes not to level down its social, environmental and climatic standards enshrined in European law as of December 31, 2020. In addition, the United Kingdom (UK) maintains energy-climate objectives for 2030, accepts that its State aid policy or that its future financing of renewable energies remain in line with European standards.
It is observed that the electricity and gas infrastructures are not reduced, the principle of non-discriminatory access to infrastructures is guaranteed, unbundling grids/generation is applied in UK and EU, as is the cooperation between the British and European grid operators.
Public energy procurement will remain open to all operators on both sides of the Channel.
Cooperation between European and British regulators must, according to the agreement, focus on the electricity and gas markets, access to networks, security of electricity and gas supply, planning of infrastructure or the decarbonisation of gas.
This energy cooperation also mentions joint projects for offshore wind power, which will become an even more essential element of the future UK energy policy.
Cooperation on civil nuclear power is detailed in a specific document / agreement that allows the supply, transfer, and exchange of materials, technologies and equipment related to the atom.
The British will be involved in various European programs, such as the Euratom 2021-2025 research activities, the Iter project and the European research program Horizon Europe.
In conclusion and in practical terms: not much will change in the near future, but the legal profession will certainly be extremely busy as the Brexit agreement entails the negotiations of several new additional bilateral agreements and/or understandings…