Brexit, Ireland fears for its energy security

Brexit, Ireland fears for its energy security

Simona Manna
The United Kingdom's exit from the EU would have strong repercussions on the country, cutting it off from the rest of the European energy market given that all its gas and electricity imports come through Britain

Brexit is raising concerns, particularly among its neighbors. Negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union officially started just over a month ago and it is still unclear whether they will lead to a soft or a drastic exit. Whatever their outcome, there will be heavy consequences for some countries, particularly Ireland whose fears over energy security have already prompted it to consider several strategies in order to avoid power blackouts. Brexit in fact threatens to cut off Dublin from the rest of the European energy market since all its gas and electricity imports come through the United Kingdom.

Possible strategies and EU support

Among the various possibilities being considered by Ireland is the option of an electricity link with France dubbed the "Celtic Interconnector". This large-scale project involving a 600-kilometer cable, for which the preparatory work has been funded by the European Commission, would have the capacity to transmit 700 megawatts of electricity, providing enough power to supply up to 450,000 Irish homes. This would end Ireland’s reliance on Britain and enable the country to import and export any energy surplus. The idea for the link dates back to before Brexit, but its implementation has been stepped up considerably since the outcome of the referendum. The European Union is also supporting Ireland over the possible construction of an LNG terminal on the estuary of the Shannon River, on the west coast of Ireland, which would provide a useful entry point to northern Europe for American gas exports.

An uncertain outlook

It is still difficult to determine what the actual consequences of Britain’s exit from the EU will be. Much depends on the negotiations still underway, as pointed out among others by the leading Irish think tank, the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA). According to its study "What does Brexit mean for the Energy Sector in Ireland?". "The exact impact of a Brexit on energy markets in Ireland is, as yet, unclear. It will depend, to a large extent, on negotiations yet to take place by parties whose negotiation stances remain to be determined and, significantly for the I-SEM, the status of a post-Brexit UK as a third party country deemed capable of processing EU citizen data."

The most "exposed" EU country according to Standard & Poor

That Ireland would be on the frontline of exposure to the consequences of Britain’s exit from the EU was highlighted as early as a year ago by the Brexit Sensitivity Index (BSI) launched by the rating agency Standard & Poor. Its survey "Who Has the Most to Lose from Brexit?", analyzing the potential impact of Brexit on 20 EU and non EU countries, concluded that Ireland would be the most exposed, followed by Malta and Luxembourg.