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Flights, electricity, and Anglo-Irish travel: Things that will be fine in a no-deal Brexit

There aren’t many, but there are elements that will be fine in a no-deal Brexit.

Image: PA Archive/PA Images

OF A NUMBER of concerns there are about Brexit, there are some things that will be fine in a no-deal Brexit, due to cooperation between the EU and the UK. 

Although there is a risk of disruption, delays and price increases in almost all areas of Irish life if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, areas that had been a concern previously, such as aviation, have been (relatively) smoothed over.

Of course, we won’t actually know what exact effect a no-deal Brexit will have until it actually happens, so there’s only so much we can say will be fine. In the cases of electricity, aviation and the Common Travel Area, however, they will continue to operate largely as they do now in a no-deal Brexit – which could be just weeks away.

Electricity

This week, at a Seanad Special Committee on Brexit, Rodney Doyle, the Director of Market Operations and General Manager of EirGrid said that it had transitioned from the single electricity market (SEM) to the ‘Integrated Single Electricity Market’ (ISEM) to safeguard electricity supplies ahead of Brexit.

“The Single Electricity Market has been operational for 12 years,” Doyle said.

There’s remained a strong and consistent view that the SEM should be retained. It’s our view that running the all-island electricity market has been a huge success and a tangible benefit of the peace process itself.

“Now that we have transitioned to the Integrated Single Electricity Market, we are linked into the electricity market across the whole of Europe which is seen to deliver even greater efficiencies.”

EirGrid is the State-owned utility that operates the high-voltage electricity grid and the electricity market north (through SONI) and south (through TSO). Eirgrid also works closely with ESB and NIE to deliver that mandate.

Since 2011, a Celtic interconnector has been proposed as an electrical link, which if built will enable the movement of power between Ireland and France. 

When completed, which is expected in the mid-2020s, it will be the only energy connection to an EU member state once the UK leaves the EU, and help to keep the price of electricity minimised. 

Last week, the EU Commission granted funding of €520 million to fund the “landmark project”, with 65% of the grant (or €345 million) being allocated to Ireland.

Particular attention to renew energy cooperation unpick the good work done to date. Committee again to use its voice of influence. 

Stephen Wheeler of SSE also told the committee that although the all-island electricity market must continue, that the single electricity market would be retained, but that “day-ahead coupling” would be affected, although the impact “would be minor”. 

Denis O’Sullivan, the Managing Director of Gas Networks Ireland, also said at the same committee appearance that following Brexit, the physical gas infrastructure linking Ireland to the rest of Europe will not change. 

The Irish gas market is heavily interconnected with that of the UK. It should be noted that the supply of gas to Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man is fully reliant on Gas Networks Ireland’s infrastructure which only underpins the need for continued cooperation between Ireland and the UK in relation to gas supplies.

Planes

Brexit leaflet Source: Dublin Airport Authority

Niall MacCarthy, the Executive Brexit Lead and Cork Airport Managing Director of the Dublin Airport Authority (daa) told the Seanad Special Select Committee in a separate hearing that flights will continue to operate as normal at Dublin and Cork in a no-deal Brexit.

“If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, emergency regulation will come into force at EU level to protect air connectivity for passengers and freight between the EU and the UK.”

Currently, the UK is part of the ‘Open Skies Agreement’ which is part of the EU, and allows planes registered in different European countries to fly over each others’ skies. 

Because Regulation (EU 2019/502 on common rules ensuring basic air connectivity with regard to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union) will take effect immediately in the event that the UK exits the EU without a deal on 31 October and will apply until October 2020.

“It will bring into force a range of provisions to ensure that UK air carriers can continue to provide basic air transport services between the UK and the 27 remaining EU member states, including Ireland.”

The UK has confirmed that it will mirror those provisions set out in the EU Regulation.

This will give UK air carriers permission to perform scheduled and non-scheduled flights between any point within the UK and the EU.

In addition, the regulation also states that if airlines can, within two weeks of the no-deal legislation taking effect, provide proof to the European Commission that they have robust plans to ensure compliance with EU Ownership and Control rules and restrictions within the subsequent six-month period, then these airlines would in effect be entitled to a six-month “grace period”, during which their EU operating licences and associated rights would remain unaffected.

This would help Aer Lingus continue services, as close to 50% of its shareholders are based in the UK.

The Common Travel Area

This slightly overlaps with the above, but is also distinct.

Under the Common Travel Area (CTA), Irish and British citizens can travel freely and live in either jurisdiction and enjoy associated rights and entitlements including access to employment, healthcare, education, social benefits, and the right to vote in certain elections.

The Common Travel Area pre-dates Irish and UK membership of the EU and is not dependent on it, the Department of Foreign Affairs states.

The Government of Ireland and the UK Government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding‌, reaffirming their commitment to maintaining the CTA in all circumstances. On the date of the signing, both Governments also issued a Joint Statement.

“The CTA and associated reciprocal rights and privileges existed long before either Ireland or the UK were members of the European Union. The CTA and the associated reciprocal rights and privileges which Irish and British citizens enjoy are separate from, and therefore not dependent on, EU citizenship or EU membership.

In the context of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and recognising the strong and enduring people to people ties, and long tradition of migration between Ireland and the UK, the participants consider it desirable to provide a contemporary articulation of these longstanding CTA arrangements, and to reaffirm that such arrangements are to continue.

In a statement after issuing the memorandum, Ireland and the UK reaffirmed “the immensely important and enduring nature of the relationship between our two countries and the unique ties between our citizens”.

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