No-deal Brexit could see Northern Ireland suffer mass electricity blackouts

PUBLISHED: 15:17 27 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:17 27 September 2018

A no-deal Brexit could see electricity blackouts in Northern Ireland. Picture: PA

A no-deal Brexit could see electricity blackouts in Northern Ireland. Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Northern Ireland could be plunged into darkness following a no-deal Brexit, government officials have warned.

Leaked documents warn that such a scenario could lead to a “failure” of the energy market and “significant risks” of electricity blackouts.

The papers state: “Without a deal there are significant price and security of supply risks for Northern Ireland.”

A no-deal Brexit is likely to see the current common energy market on the island of Ireland – the Single Electricity Market (SEM) – fall apart, stopping the easy trade of power across the border which has existed for more than a decade.

According to the official documents, this could see “higher system costs and consumer prices – up to 34% increase in bills” and “an insecure, isolated Northern Ireland market”.

There is also a warning that a no-deal could lead to “heavy government intervention”. According to an earlier leak to the Financial Times in July, the government could send a flotilla of barges with energy generators to keep the region’s lights on.

The SEM is underpinned by the UK and Ireland’s membership of the Internal Energy Market, which all EU members participate in, alongside Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. It requires countries to abide by EU rules surrounding emissions regulations and restrictions on state aid. The latest leaked documents suggest the SEM would be “at risk” in a no-deal scenario.

Ian Paisley, DUP MP for North Antrim, who recently won a recall vote following his suspension from the House of Commons after he failed to declare a holiday paid for by the Sri Lankan government, said the warnings were “fake news”.

The Brexiteer tweeted: “Fake news! Don’t forget planes falling out of the sky, food shortage, mass unemployment and pestilence!”

Any historical deal between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland which is not subject to an agreement prior to the United Kingdom leaving the EU will most likely stop being valid in a no-deal scenario. This is because many of the agreements assume both parties’ continued membership of the EU and no hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government since January 16, 2017, when the power-sharing deal between Sinn Fein and the DUP collapsed following the ‘cash for ash’ scandal.

The scandal saw the then minister for enterprise, trade and investment, Arlene Foster, oversee an incentive scheme for businesses to use biomass fuels, which – due to the rate paid being more than the cost of the fuel – saw many applicants making profits simply by heating their properties, at a cost to the public purse almost £500 million.

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