The Brief: Beanz Meanz Brexit

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Beanz Meanz Heinz is one of the most iconic advertising campaigns of all time. It is a much superior motto than Brexit Means Brexit.

It was clear. It was succinct. It did exactly what it said on the tin. Brexit Means Brexit is a garbage slogan that is deviously vague and fundamentally meaningless.

Perhaps that is why some in Brussels have begun using it.

An honourable exception is Commission Brexit chief Michel Barnier, who cleverly and mischievously insists on the necessity of explaining what Brexit means.

Which, as well as being a neat power-play, is easier said than done because no one has a clue what the effects of the EU-UK divorce will be.

Take climate and energy policy for example.

Brexit, if it includes British withdrawal from the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), will necessitate a recalibration of the world’s largest carbon market.

Surplus ‘British’ carbon allowances, which can be traded and sold, will need to be taken off the market.

Brexit could hit the already low carbon price, which is important to incentivise green investment, as well as ETS targets set for 2020 and 2030.

The draft Effort Sharing Regulation sets out binding greenhouse gas emissions reductions for each member state. Each country’s target is its contribution to an EU-wide pledge to cut pollution from non-ETS sectors by 30%.

No one knows if the EU target will drop after Brexit or if the remaining EU-27 will have to pick up the British slack. There are similar EU-wide 2030 targets for renewables and energy efficiency.

UK experts are concerned that EU goals on energy efficiency will not be replaced with strong enough rules. Others claim that Brexit is a chance to improve on the weaknesses of initiatives such as the Circular Economy package.

Last week the World Energy Council, an influential think tank, warned of Brexit-fuelled doubts over the British commitment to sustainable energy projects such as renewables.

The UK has said it will keep the commitment it made to the UN’s Paris Agreement on climate change, regardless of Brexit.

But many of the leading figures in the Vote Leave campaign question global warming and their views could gain traction now the UK is officially on its way out the door.

And UK diplomats have been instructed to drop climate change in favour of a focus on trade, according to documents photographed on a train and published yesterday in the press.

Can a non-EU country even be a member of the nascent Energy Union?

The Brexit talks will be complicated, far-reaching and have ramifications on EU and national laws across a multitude of sectors.

The EU-27 says that, when it comes to the divorce deal, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

Brexit doesn’t mean Brexit. Right now, all it means is uncertainty.

The Roundup

A Greek minister says being pro-European is “meaningless” if federalism is not the aim of the game. Athens risks being left behind in the green revolution.

Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon is closing in on frontrunners Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in the race for the French presidency.

Hungary has witnessed its largest anti-government protests in three years. Viktor Orban is accused of trying to close a university and of weaponising fake news.

50 European politicians have backed Scottish independence and future membership of the EU. We assume they are hard at work on similar missives for Catalonia and Flanders…

At a G7 meeting of foreign ministers in Italy, the UK is pushing for fresh sanctions on Syrian and Russian military figures.

The US was unable to commit to a joint statement at a meeting of the G7’s energy ministers, also in Italy, because it is still reviewing its climate and energy policy, according to US representative Rick Perry.

The Danish government may rush through legislation allowing it to ban pipeline projects on security grounds. The move comes amid Russian efforts to build the disputed Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

The EU has made “good progress” in trade negotiations with Mexico and has published the results of its latest round of talks with the Mercosur trade bloc. The Commission also approved the merger of Sky and 21st Century Fox.

Romania doesn’t fear multi-speed Europe but it is concerned about the bloc’s future, the man who shepherded the country into the EU told Georgi Gotev.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn told German media the goal is for Serbia and other West Balkan applicants to be bloc members within the decade.

Egypt has declared a state of emergency after churches were bombed yesterday. The EU condemned the attacks. An Uzbek man arrested and suspected of carrying out the truck attack in Stockholm was denied asylum by Sweden in December.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he will make Europe pay for “humiliating” Turks. At least Turkey will be “beautiful” under his watch. Erdogan recently signed an emergency decree live on TV that allows beauticians to carry out laser hair-removal.

Sam Morgan contributed to this Brief.

Look out for…

A public hearing on the mid-term review of the Capital Markets Union. Commissioners Dombrovskis and Katainen will speak in Brussels at the event which begins at 9AM tomorrow. Access to finance for SMEs, better cross-border flow of capital and more opportunities for retail and institutional investors will be discussed.

Views are the author’s.

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