James Forsyth

‘What’s more important obeying a Brussels directive or keeping the lights on?’

'What’s more important obeying a Brussels directive or keeping the lights on?'
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Andrew Neil’s interview of Michael Fallon on The Sunday Politics was a reminder of just how much of UK energy policy is determined by EU rules. When pressed on why there’s such a capacity crunch that there’s a risk of blackouts in the winter of 2015-16, Fallon explained that this was because a whole series of ‘dirtier’ plants are coming off-stream because of EU rules. If this wasn’t happening, there wouldn’t be a problem.

Intriguingly, when asked ‘what’s more important obeying a Brussels directive or keeping the lights on?’ Fallon responded that ‘Keeping the lights on is the job of the government’. But he stressed that the government was ‘not planning to break any particular laws’. He then went on to discuss bringing various mothballed plants back on stream. Taken together, Fallon seemed to be leaving the door open to defying the EU if necessary. Certainly, it would be hard to imagine a bigger boost for the No campaign in any EU referendum than the lights going out because of EU regulations.