Brexit threatens EU gas-security plans

31 January 2017 9:54am

12 July 2016. By Emily Waterfield.

The UK’s vote to leave the European Union has cast doubt on plans to protect EU countries from shortages of natural gas, members of the European Parliament’s energy committee said today.

Brexit makes it more important for the EU to start importing liquefied natural gas from new suppliers, one Irish parliamentarian told colleagues during a meeting in Brussels today.

A UK exit from the bloc would leave Ireland in “an extraordinary position” during EU talks to improve energy links between member states, Seán Kelly said. “We are dependent on only one [energy] link with one country, which won’t even be a member of the EU,” the center-right lawmaker said.

“LNG will be very important to us,” Kelly said. The US and Australia both expect to start shipping LNG — natural gas that has been liquefied and compressed, so it can be transported by boat instead of pipeline — later this year.

A commission proposal on energy security aims to reduce the risk of countries facing a gas shortage in the event of supply disruptions. The strategy is meant to cut EU dependence on Russian gas supplies.

The proposal relies on a “solidarity mechanism,” under which countries are grouped into regions, each of which would be required to ship gas to the others in times of crisis. Ireland and the UK would count as one region.

“We’ve got some problems here,” Jerzy Buzek, the parliamentarian leading the talks in the assembly, said during today’s committee meeting. “One of our regions could disappear.”

Buzek said the solidarity mechanism was “absolutely a last resort. We hope it never will be used. But we should be prepared.”

“The regulation is about how to safeguard ourselves in a major crisis,” he said. “This is solidarity as a legal obligation. As a last resort.”

Government have drafted a working position on the gas-security dossier, but are struggling to agree on how to group countries into regions.

The proposal to make countries share gas supplies in times of crisis was used by critics of the EU project as an argument in favor of Brexit, ahead of the UK referendum on union membership last month.

Brexit Special Report