Ministers offer ‘scant detail’ on post-Brexit green policy, MPs warn

The Government has faced criticism for providing "scant detail" on areas relating to post-Brexit energy and climate change policy, such as the UK's role in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS).

A report from the BEIS Committee had recommended the UK retain membership of the ETS until 2020 at least. But in response to MPs’ suggestions, ministers said only that they are “considering all the options”.

The Government also avoided committing to maintained access to the internal energy market, confirming only that “continued efficient energy trading” with the EU would be a key ambition.

Uncertainty around these issues has the potential to damage UK completeness and future investment, MPs have warned.

“The previous Committee report highlighted a number of areas on energy and climate change policy which the Government should address as we leave the EU,” BEIS chair Rachel Reeves said.

“There is precious little from the Government on two vital areas for our energy and climate change future – the EU Internal Energy Market (IEM) and the EU ETS. The response has scant detail on the UK’s future relationship with the EU IEM or how we may participate in the EU ETS.”

‘Greater clarity’

The Committee did welcome some “encouraging signs” from the Government’s response. These include pledges to seek a close relationship with Eurotom over nuclear issues, and to ensure a continued single energy market for Northern Ireland and Ireland.

But MPs said they are looking for “far greater clarity on energy and climate change policy to ensure that industry can plan for the future”.

With less than 18 months until the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, concerns are growing that the UK’s post-Brexit favoured position on issues related to energy and the climate remains no clearer than on the referendum date.

Negotiations to date have focused on withdrawal issues such as a need to settle the UK’s “divorce bill”. The Government has urged the EU to allow talks to progress so that discussions can start on a “new era” of cooperation on energy and climate change.

Ministers said they recognise the importance of ensuring investor confidence. In response to the BEIS report, the Government stressed it was “listening to the concerns of both big and small businesses as well as other stakeholders up and down the country to ensure that the UK’s new relationship with the EU meets their needs”.

Last week, Defra Secretary Michael Gove vowed to consult on the creation of a new environmental body to ensure the UK avoids a “governance gap” after leaving the EU. Gove told MPs that a consultation for a new regulator would likely take place ahead of the Britain’s departure in March 2019.

George Ogleby

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