8 July 2016
8 July 2016,
 Off

EU-UK flags picBrexit (if it even happens) – an energy survival guide.

What should energy managers or in fact anybody do after the referendum result? The immediate answer is nothing, as nothing has really changed at the moment apart from the meltdown of sterling and investment.

Until Article 50 is invoked we are still a member of the EU with all the obligations that imply in terms of EU regulations. To press the button on Article 50 may take a minimum of six to eight months. The next PM will need to put an agenda together and a team of negotiators that at present we do not have. As David Cameron is only stepping down in September, it is more than likely this process will happen at earliest February of next year but may be a lot longer. European leaders have said they will not negotiate terms until Article 50 is triggered, but it would be foolhardy for any PM to even consider starting the process that most believe cannot be stopped (but legally this could be debated), without having the first idea of what they are signing up to.

The real changes will be dependent on how the politics develop. So here goes on my political crystal ball gazing based on 25 years of sitting in the Lords. The first question to consider is whether we will actually Brexit. The answer is not straight forward, and the longer the initial process lasts the less likely we will leave the Union.

How can I make this ridiculous claim now that the people have spoken? A referendum is a clear position from the people; however in this case those voting for Brexit may have been making a political point that had little to do with the outcome. I may receive furious posts on this point, and as a Liberal I am firmly in the remain camp, but the old adage “a week is a long time in politics” means that voting on a position, that no one in the whole of the EU can picture at present, apart from pure speculation, is a problem.

Could there be a second referendum? There is a precedent already, the Irish voted against the Lisbon treaty and then had a second referendum when the implications were understood. The British referendum was based on some wild predictions on both sides about the course of the negotiations. It is now being cited that we will get a good deal by most pundits but like our Euro football dreams hope of glory always triumphs over actual outcomes. A better analogy is the Eurovision song contest; even if we had the best song we would still be shoved down the ranking by the politics of how nations vote. What may be in our interest might only be agreed to by… say Spain if we give them Gibraltar. Any one of the remaining 27 can scupper the negotiations or drag out a trade deal for years if they can get something out of it even, if there are clear benefits for other members of the EU.

Once the process is under negotiations and the country is suffering economically with major risks to industry and the City, a second referendum would almost certainly be acceptable to the majority. For those who argue that this is a short term economic shock, it isn’t. This cannot come as surprise, both – the in and out camp said that this will lead to a downturn that may last years. Few have talked about the loss of European Central Bank support that will really hit the cost of borrowing but that is off the point.

There have been calls for an immediate trigger of Article 50, not least by Brussels panicking that Britain leaving will cause a domino effect. However, this misses the argument that it may not be legal until there is a vote in Parliament which will slow the process down. If this needed to be ratified by legislation then all bets are off whether it could get through at all.

The referendum result was an advice to Parliament, and although this seems to be a clear instruction, the turbulent situation in Labour and the Conservatives, which is exacerbated by divisions on Europe, means that a general election is quite possible in the autumn. This would be triggered by either civil war in the Tories, meaning they have no real majority or by the next PM needing a viable majority to force any vote through. Liberal Democrats and the SNP would vote against any motion to trigger exit. The Lib Dems have already declared that they would do all they could to stop Brexit although at present they do not have quite enough MPs to win this argument. The majority of MPs are in the remain camp and will come up with any number of reasons to justify voting against invoking Article 50 in the short term, if at all.

Theresa May is likely to win the Conservative leadership contest, and is seen as a uniting force in the Tory party, if that is possible. But even though she has said that she will move as quickly as possible to Brexit, she has left a caveat that the financial position needs to be stable.  Good luck there.

My original point made was to question whether there would be changes in the laws and regulations in the foreseeable future. Most European regulations have been incorporated into British laws but a vast number may need to be altered to reflect the new situation. An amusing point is that if Parliament gave up on all its holidays and worked in unison solidly, it would still take ten years to change the roughly 40,000 EU inspired laws into British only legislation or orders. Do not expect ESOS to be top of the list.

So apart from factoring volatile sterling, there is little point in reviewing changes in the rules that govern your workplace, so sit back enjoy the farcical soap opera that is British politics.

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