Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU

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As the UK officially notifies the European Union that it is leaving, here is an easy-to-understand guide to Brexit - beginning with the basics.

What does Brexit mean?

It is a word that has become used as a shorthand way of saying the UK leaving the EU - merging the words Britain and exit to get Brexit, in a same way as a possible Greek exit from the euro was dubbed Grexit in the past.

Why is Britain leaving the European Union?

A referendum - a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part - was held on Thursday 23 June, 2016, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union. Leave won by 51.9% to 48.1%. The referendum turnout was 71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting.

Find the result in your area

What was the breakdown across the UK?

England voted for Brexit, by 53.4% to 46.6%. Wales also voted for Brexit, with Leave getting 52.5% of the vote and Remain 47.5%. Scotland and Northern Ireland both backed staying in the EU. Scotland backed Remain by 62% to 38%, while 55.8% in Northern Ireland voted Remain and 44.2% Leave. See the results in more detail.

What changed in government after the referendum?

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Britain got a new Prime Minister - Theresa May. The former home secretary took over from David Cameron, who announced he was resigning on the day he lost the referendum. Like Mr Cameron, Mrs May was against Britain leaving the EU but she played only a very low-key role in the campaign and was never seen as much of an enthusiast for the EU. She became PM without facing a full Conservative leadership contest after her key rivals from what had been the Leave side pulled out.

How has the new PM done so far?

It's not for us to grade politicians' performance, but opinion polls give the Conservative Party a huge lead over the largest opposition party, Labour, and she recently became the first prime minister to gain an opposition seat in a by-election for 35 years. Theresa May's key message has been that "Brexit means Brexit" and she pledged to trigger the two year process of leaving the EU by the end of March. She set out some details of her negotiating hopes in her key speech on Brexit.

What about the economy, so far?

David Cameron, his Chancellor George Osborne and many other senior figures who wanted to stay in the EU predicted an immediate economic crisis if the UK voted to leave. House prices would fall, there would be a recession with a big rise in unemployment - and an emergency Budget would be needed to bring in the large cuts in spending that would be needed.

The pound did slump the day after the referendum - and remains around 15% lower against the dollar and 10% down against the euro - but the predictions of immediate doom have not proved accurate with the UK economy estimated to have grown 1.8% in 2016, second only to Germany's 1.9% among the world's G7 leading industrialised nations.

Inflation has risen - to 2.3% in February - its highest rate for three and a half years, but unemployment has continued to fall, to stand at an 11 year low of 4.8%. Annual house price increases have fallen from 9.4% in June but were still at an inflation-busting 7.4% in December, according to official ONS figures.

What is the European Union?

The European Union - often known as the EU - is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries (click here if you want to see the full list). It began after World War Two to foster economic co-operation, with the idea that countries which trade together are more likely to avoid going to war with each other.

It has since grown to become a "single market" allowing goods and people to move around, basically as if the member states were one country. It has its own currency, the euro, which is used by 19 of the member countries, its own parliament and it now sets rules in a wide range of areas - including on the environment, transport, consumer rights and even things such as mobile phone charges. Click here for a beginners' guide to how the EU works.

Media captionHow does the European Union work?

So when will Britain actually leave it?

For the UK to leave the EU it has to invoke an agreement called Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which gives the two sides two years to agree the terms of the split. Theresa May has said she intends to trigger this process on 29 March, meaning the UK will be expected to have left by the summer of 2019, depending on the precise timetable agreed during the negotiations. The government will also enact a Great Repeal Bill which will end the primacy of EU law in the UK. This Great Repeal Bill is expected to incorporate all EU legislation into UK law in one lump, after which the government will decide over a period of time which parts to keep, change or remove.

What is Article 50?

Article 50 is a plan for any country that wishes to exit the EU. It was created as part of the Treaty of Lisbon - an agreement signed up to by all EU states which became law in 2009. Before that treaty, there was no formal mechanism for a country to leave the EU.

It's pretty short - just five paragraphs - which spell out that any EU member state may decide to quit the EU, that it must notify the European Council and negotiate its withdrawal with the EU, that there are two years to reach an agreement - unless everyone agrees to extend it - and that the exiting state cannot take part in EU internal discussions about its departure. You can read more about Article 50 here.

What was the Supreme Court Brexit case about?

After a court battle, the UK's Supreme Court ruled in January that Parliament had to be consulted before Article 50 was invoked. This is why a two line Brexit bill has just made its way through Parliament. MPs approved it after Labour MPs were told to support it. But it was amended in the House of Lords to include a call to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already in the UK and to ensure a "meaningful vote" for Parliament before any Brexit deal was agreed with the EU. MPs reversed those changes and the unamended bill became law after the Lords backed down, with Labour peers dropping their backing for the changes. That cleared the way for Mrs May to send her letter to the EU officially announcing that the UK was leaving.

Who is going to negotiate Britain's exit from the EU?

Theresa May set up a government department, headed by veteran Conservative MP and Leave campaigner David Davis, to take responsibility for Brexit. Former defence secretary, Liam Fox, who also campaigned to leave the EU, was given the new job of international trade secretary and Boris Johnson, who was a leader of the official Leave campaign, is foreign secretary. These men - dubbed the Three Brexiteers - are each set to play roles in negotiations with the EU and seek out new international agreements, although it will be Mrs May, as prime minister, who will have the final say. Who's who guide to both sides' negotiators.

How long will it take for Britain to leave the EU?

Once Article 50 is triggered, the UK will have two years to negotiate its withdrawal. But no one really knows how the Brexit process will work - Article 50 was only created in late 2009 and it has never been used. Former Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, now Chancellor, wanted Britain to remain in the EU, and he has suggested it could take up to six years for the UK to complete exit negotiations. The terms of Britain's exit will have to be agreed by 27 national parliaments, a process which could take some years, he has argued.

EU law still stands in the UK until it ceases being a member. The UK will continue to abide by EU treaties and laws, but not take part in any decision-making.

Why will Brexit take so long?

Unpicking 43 years of treaties and agreements covering thousands of different subjects was never going to be a straightforward task. It is further complicated by the fact that it has never been done before and negotiators will, to some extent, be making it up as they go along. The post-Brexit trade deal is likely to be the most complex part of the negotiation because it needs the unanimous approval of more than 30 national and regional parliaments across Europe, some of whom may want to hold referendums.

The likely focus of negotiations between the UK and EU

Following Theresa May's Brexit speech in January we know that the UK is not intending to stay in the EU's single market. Although there has been speculation for months about the issue, it would have meant the UK staying under the auspices of the European Court of Justice and having to allow unlimited EU immigration, under freedom of movement rules.

Both sides want trade to continue after Brexit with the UK seeking a positive outcome for those who wish to trade goods and services" - such as those in the City of London and wanting a "comprehensive free trade deal" giving the UK "the greatest possible access" to the single market. Mrs May says she wants the UK to reach a new customs union deal with the EU. A customs union is where countries agree not to impose tariffs on each others' goods and have a common tariff on goods coming in from elsewhere. The UK is currently part of the EU customs union but that stops the UK being able to do its own trade deals with other countries. Reality Check: How could customs union work?

What do 'soft' and 'hard' Brexit mean?

These terms have increasingly been used as debate focused on the terms of the UK's departure from the EU. There is no strict definition of either, but they are used to refer to the closeness of the UK's relationship with the EU post-Brexit.

So at one extreme, "hard" Brexit could involve the UK refusing to compromise on issues like the free movement of people in order to maintain access to the EU single market. At the other end of the scale, a "soft" Brexit might follow a similar path to Norway, which is a member of the single market and has to accept the free movement of people as a result.

What happens if there is no deal with the EU?

Prime Minister Theresa May says leaving the EU with no deal whatsoever would be better than signing the UK up to a bad one. Without an agreement on trade, the UK would have to operate under World Trade Organisation rules, which could mean customs checks and tariffs.

Some argue it would make little difference because the UK's trading partners in the EU would not want to start a trade war. Others say it will mean greater costs for UK businesses buying and selling goods abroad.

There are also questions about what would happen to Britain's position as global financial centre, without access to the single market, and the land border between the UK and Ireland. There is also concern that Brits living abroad in the EU could lose residency rights and access to free emergency health care. Here is a full explanation of what 'no deal' could mean

What happens to EU citizens living in the UK?

The government has declined to give a firm guarantee about the status of EU nationals currently living in the UK, saying this is not possible without a reciprocal pledge from other EU members about the millions of British nationals living on the continent. EU nationals with a right to permanent residence, which is granted after they have lived in the UK for five years, should not see their rights affected.

What happens to UK citizens working in the EU?

A lot depends on the kind of deal the UK agrees with the EU. If the government opted to impose work permit restrictions on EU nationals, then other countries could reciprocate, meaning Britons would have to apply for visas to work.

What about EU nationals who want to work in the UK?

Again, it depends on whether the UK government decides to introduce a work permit system of the kind that currently applies to non-EU citizens, limiting entry to skilled workers in professions where there are shortages. Citizens' Advice has reminded people their rights have not changed yet and asked anyone to contact them if they think they have been discriminated against following the Leave vote.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has suggested EU migrants who come to the UK as Brexit nears may not be given the right to stay. He has said there might have to be a cut-off point if there was a "surge" in new arrivals.

What does the fall in the value of the pound mean for prices in the shops?

Media captionShoppers will need to keep a close eye on how much they are spending

People travelling overseas from the UK have found their pounds are buying fewer euros or dollars after the Brexit vote. The day-to-day spending impact is likely to be more significant. Even if the pound regains some of its value, currency experts expect it to remain at least 10% below where it was on 23 June, in the long term.

This means imported goods will consequently get more expensive - some price rises for food, clothing and homeware goods have already been seen and the issue was most notably illustrated by the dispute between Tesco and Marmite's makers about whether prices would be put up or not in the stores.

The latest UK inflation figures, for February, showed the CPI inflation rate rising to 2.3%, its highest level for three and a half years, with signs of more cost pressures set to feed through in the months to come.

Will immigration be cut?

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Prime Minister Theresa May has said one of the main messages she has taken from the Leave vote is that the British people want to see a reduction in immigration. She has said this will be a focus of Brexit negotiations as she remains committed to getting net migration - the difference between the numbers entering and leaving the country - down to a "sustainable" level, which she defines as being below 100,000 a year.

In the year to September net migration was 273,000 a year, of which 165,000 were EU citizens, and 164,000 were from outside the EU - the figures include a 56,000 outflow of UK citizens. That net migration figure is 49,000 lower than the year before.

Could there be a second referendum?

It seems highly unlikely. Both the Conservatives and the Labour Party have ruled out another referendum, arguing that it would be an undemocratic breach of trust with the British people who clearly voted to Leave. The Liberal Democrats - who have just a handful of MPs - have vowed to halt Brexit and keep Britain in the EU if they were to win the next general election.

Some commentators, including former House of Commons clerk Lord Lisvane, have argued that a further referendum would be needed to ratify whatever deal the UK hammers out with the EU, but there are few signs political leaders view this as a viable option.

Will MPs get a vote on the Brexit deal?

Yes. Theresa May has appeared keen to avoid a vote on her negotiating stance, to avoid having to give away her priorities, but she has said there will be a Commons and Lords vote to approve whatever deal the UK and the rest of the EU agree at the end of the two year process. It is worth mentioning that any deal also has to be agreed by the European Parliament - with British MEPs getting a chance to vote on it there.

Will I need a visa to travel to the EU?

While there could be limitations on British nationals' ability to live and work in EU countries, it seems unlikely they would want to deter tourists. There are many countries outside the European Economic Area, which includes the 28 EU nations plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway, that British citizens can visit for up to 90 days without needing a visa and it is possible that such arrangements could be negotiated with European countries.

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Will I still be able to use my passport?

Yes. It is a British document - there is no such thing as an EU passport, so your passport will stay the same. In theory, the government could, if it wanted, decide to change the colour, which is currently standardised for EU countries, says the BBC's Europe correspondent, Chris Morris.

Some say we could still remain in the single market - but what is a single market?

The single market is seen by its advocates as the EU's biggest achievement and one of the main reasons it was set up in the first place. Britain was a member of a free trade area in Europe before it joined what was then known as the common market. In a free trade area countries can trade with each other without paying tariffs - but it is not a single market because the member states do not have to merge their economies together.

The European Union single market, which was completed in 1992, allows the free movement of goods, services, money and people within the European Union, as if it was a single country. It is possible to set up a business or take a job anywhere within it. The idea was to boost trade, create jobs and lower prices. But it requires common law-making to ensure products are made to the same technical standards and imposes other rules to ensure a "level playing field".

Critics say it generates too many petty regulations and robs members of control over their own affairs. Mass migration from poorer to richer countries has also raised questions about the free movement rule. Theresa May has ruled out the UK staying in the single market. Read more: A free trade area v EU single market

Has any other member state ever left the EU?

No nation state has ever left the EU. But Greenland, one of Denmark's overseas territories, held a referendum in 1982, after gaining a greater degree of self government, and voted by 52% to 48% to leave, which it duly did after a period of negotiation. The BBC's Carolyn Quinn visited Greenland to find out how they did it.

What does this mean for Scotland?

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Image caption Nicola Sturgeon says a new independence referendum in Scotland is likely

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in the wake of the Leave result that it was "democratically unacceptable" that Scotland faced being taken out of the EU when it voted to Remain. She said Mrs May's decision to rule out the UK staying in the single market meant Scotland should have a choice between a "hard Brexit" and becoming an independent country, possibly in the EU. Ms Sturgeon has officially asked for permission for a second referendum to be held, saying that she wanted the vote to be held between the autumn of 2018 and spring 2019. Theresa May has said "this is not the time" for a second referendum.

What does it mean for Northern Ireland?

The land border between Northern Ireland and EU member the Republic of Ireland is likely to be a key part of the Brexit talks. Theresa May said a priority for her would be negotiating a deal with the EU which allowed a common travel area between the UK and the Republic.

Like Scotland, Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in last year's referendum. The result in Northern Ireland was 56% for Remain and 44% for Leave.

Sinn Fein, which was part of the ruling coalition in the Northern Ireland Assembly before it was suspended, has called for a referendum on leaving the UK and joining the Republic of Ireland as soon as possible.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has said that should the people of Northern Ireland vote to leave the UK, they would "be in a position of becoming part of an existing EU member state, rather than seeking to join the EU as a new independent state".

It would then be up to the EU Commission "to respond to any specific questions about the procedural requirements for that to happen," he added.

But Mr Davis said the UK government's "clear position is to support Northern Ireland's current constitutional status: as part of the UK, but with strong links to Ireland".

How will pensions, savings, investments and mortgages be affected?

During the referendum campaign, David Cameron said the so-called "triple lock" for state pensions would be threatened by a UK exit. This is the agreement by which pensions increase by at least the level of earnings, inflation or 2.5% every year - whichever is the highest. But his successor Theresa May has said she will keep it in place, at least for the current Parliament, which is due to last until 2020.

So far there has been a cut in interest rates, which has helped keep mortgage and other borrowing rates low. There are yet to be signs that rising inflation have worried the Bank of England enough to consider raising interest rates. But if that happened it would make mortgages and loans more expensive to repay - but would be good news for savers.

Will duty-free sales on Europe journeys return?

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Journalists and writers on social media have greeted the reintroduction of duty-free sales as an "upside" or "silver lining" of Brexit. As with most Brexit consequences, whether this will happen depends on how negotiations with the EU play out - whether the "customs union" agreement between Britain and the EU is ended or continued.

Will EHIC cards still be valid?

They are at the moment but no-one knows the longer term prospects for definite. The EHIC card - which entitles travellers to state-provided medical help for any condition or injury that requires urgent treatment, in any other country within the EU, as well as several non-EU countries - is not an EU initiative. It was negotiated between countries within a group known as the European Economic Area, often simply referred to as the single market (plus Switzerland, which confusingly is not a member of the EEA, but has agreed access to the single market). Therefore, the future of Britons' EHIC cover could depend on whether the UK decided to sever ties with the EEA.

Will cars need new number plates?

Probably not, says BBC Europe correspondent Chris Morris, because there's no EU-wide law on vehicle registration or car number places, and the EU flag symbol is a voluntary identifier and not compulsory. The DVLA says there has been no discussion about what would happen to plates with the flag if the UK voted to leave.

Could MPs block an EU exit?

Could the necessary legislation pass the Commons, given that a lot of MPs - all SNP and Lib Dems, nearly all Labour and many Conservatives - were in favour of staying? The referendum result is not legally binding - Parliament still has to pass the laws that will get Britain out of the 28 nation bloc, starting with the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act.

The withdrawal agreement also has to be ratified by Parliament - the House of Lords and/or the Commons could vote against ratification, according to a House of Commons library report. In practice, Conservative MPs who voted to remain in the EU would be whipped to vote with the government. Any who defied the whip would have to face the wrath of voters at the next general election.

One scenario that could see the referendum result overturned, is if MPs forced a general election and a party campaigned on a promise to keep Britain in the EU, got elected and then claimed that the election mandate topped the referendum one. Two-thirds of MPs would have to vote for a general election to be held before the next scheduled one in 2020.

Will leaving the EU mean we don't have to abide by the European Court of Human Rights?

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is not a European Union institution. It was set up by the Council of Europe, which has 47 members including Russia and Ukraine. So quitting the EU will not exempt the UK from its decisions.

However, the UK government is committed to repealing the Human Rights Act which requires UK courts to treat the ECHR as setting legal precedents for the UK, in favour of a British Bill of Rights. As part of that, the UK government is expected to announce measures that will boost the powers of courts in England and Wales to over-rule judgements handed down by the ECHR.

Justice Secretary Liz Truss said in February that such a bill was now being delayed until after Brexit happens.

However, the EU has its own European Court of Justice, whose decisions are binding on EU institutions and member states. Its rulings have sometimes caused controversy in Britain and supporters of a Brexit have called for immediate legislation to curb its powers.

Will the UK be able to rejoin the EU in the future?

BBC Europe editor Katya Adler says the UK would have to start from scratch with no rebate, and enter accession talks with the EU. Every member state would have to agree to the UK re-joining. But she says with elections looming elsewhere in Europe, other leaders might not be generous towards any UK demands. New members are required to adopt the euro as their currency, once they meet the relevant criteria, although the UK could try to negotiate an opt-out.

Who wanted the UK to leave the EU?

The UK Independence Party, which received nearly four million votes - 13% of those cast - in May's general election, has campaigned for many years for Britain's exit from the EU. They were joined in their call during the referendum campaign by about half the Conservative Party's MPs, including Boris Johnson and five members of the then Cabinet. A handful of Labour MPs and Northern Ireland party the DUP were also in favour of leaving.

What were their reasons for wanting the UK to leave?

They said Britain was being held back by the EU, which they said imposed too many rules on business and charged billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They also cited sovereignty and democracy, and they wanted Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming here to live and/or work.

One of the main principles of EU membership is "free movement", which means you don't need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. The Leave campaign also objected to the idea of "ever closer union" between EU member states and what they see as moves towards the creation of a "United States of Europe".

Who wanted the UK to stay in the EU?

Then Prime Minister David Cameron was the leading voice in the Remain campaign, after reaching an agreement with other European Union leaders that would have changed the terms of Britain's membership had the country voted to stay in.

He said the deal would give Britain "special" status and help sort out some of the things British people said they didn't like about the EU, like high levels of immigration - but critics said the deal would make little difference.

Sixteen members of Mr Cameron's Cabinet, including the woman who would replace him as PM, Theresa May, also backed staying in. The Conservative Party was split on the issue and officially remained neutral in the campaign. The Labour Party, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats were all in favour of staying in.

US president Barack Obama also wanted Britain to remain in the EU, as did other EU nations such as France and Germany.

What were their reasons for wanting the UK to stay?

Those campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU said it got a big boost from membership - it makes selling things to other EU countries easier and, they argued, the flow of immigrants, most of whom are young and keen to work, fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services.

They also said Britain's status in the world would be damaged by leaving and that we are more secure as part of the 28 nation club, rather than going it alone.

What about businesses?

Big business - with a few exceptions - tended to be in favour of Britain staying in the EU because it makes it easier for them to move money, people and products around the world.

Given the crucial role of London as a financial centre, there's interest in how many jobs may be lost to other hubs in the EU. Four of the biggest US banks have committed to helping maintain the City's position. But HSBC will move up to 1,000 jobs to Paris, the BBC understands.

Some UK exporters say they've had increased orders or enquiries because of the fall in the value of the pound. Pest control firm Rentokil Initial says it could make £15m extra this year thanks to a weaker currency.

Others are less optimistic. Hilary Jones, a director at UK cosmetics firm Lush said the company was "terrified" about the economic impact. She added that while the firm's Dorset factory would continue to produce goods for the UK market, products for the European market may be made at its new plant in Germany.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Boris Johnson was one of the most prominent Leave campaigners

Who led the rival sides in the campaign?

  • Britain Stronger in Europe - the main cross-party group campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU was headed by former Marks and Spencer chairman Lord Rose. It was backed by key figures from the Conservative Party, including Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, most Labour MPs, including party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Alan Johnson, who ran the Labour In for Britain campaign, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the Alliance party and the SDLP in Northern Ireland, and the Green Party. Who funded the campaign: Britain Stronger in Europe raised £6.88m, boosted by two donations totalling £2.3m from the supermarket magnate and Labour peer Lord Sainsbury. Other prominent Remain donors included hedge fund manager David Harding (£750,000), businessman and Travelex founder Lloyd Dorfman (£500,000) and the Tower Limited Partnership (£500,000). Read a Who's Who guide. Who else campaigned to remain: The SNP ran its own remain campaign in Scotland as it did not want to share a platform with the Conservatives. Several smaller groups also registered to campaign.
  • Vote Leave - A cross-party campaign that has the backing of senior Conservatives such as Michael Gove and Boris Johnson plus a handful of Labour MPs, including Gisela Stuart and Graham Stringer, and UKIP's Douglas Carswell and Suzanne Evans, and the DUP in Northern Ireland. Former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson and SDP founder Lord Owen were also involved. It had a string of affiliated groups such as Farmers for Britain, Muslims for Britain and Out and Proud, a gay anti-EU group, aimed at building support in different communities. Who funded the campaign: Vote Leave raised £2.78m. Its largest supporter was businessman Patrick Barbour, who gave £500,000. Former Conservative Party treasurer Peter Cruddas gave a £350,000 donation and construction mogul Terence Adams handed over £300,000. Read a Who's Who guide. Who else campaigned to leave: UKIP leader Nigel Farage is not part of Vote Leave. His party ran its own campaign. The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition is also running its own out campaign. Several smaller groups also registered to campaign.

Will the EU still use English?

Yes, says BBC Europe editor Katya Adler. There will still be 27 other EU states in the bloc, and others wanting to join in the future, and the common language tends to be English - "much to France's chagrin", she says.

Will Brexit harm product safety?

Probably not, is the answer. It would depend on whether or not the UK decided to get rid of current safety standards. Even if that happened any company wanting to export to the EU would have to comply with its safety rules, and it's hard to imagine a company would want to produce two batches of the same products.

Here are a selection of questions sent in - you can ask yours via the form at the end of this page

Which MPs were for staying and which for leaving?

The good news for Edward, from Cambridge, who asked this question, is we have been working on exactly such a list. Click here for the latest version.

How much does the UK contribute to the EU and how much do we get in return?

In answer to this query from Nancy from Hornchurch - the UK is one of 10 member states who pay more into the EU budget than they get out, only France and Germany contribute more. In 2014/15, Poland was the largest beneficiary, followed by Hungary and Greece.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The UK is one of 10 member states who pay more into the EU budget than they get out

The UK also gets an annual rebate that was negotiated by Margaret Thatcher and money back, in the form of regional development grants and payments to farmers, which added up to £4.6bn in 2014/15. According to the latest Treasury figures, the UK's net contribution for 2014/15 was £8.8bn - nearly double what it was in 2009/10.

The National Audit Office, using a different formula which takes into account EU money paid directly to private sector companies and universities to fund research, and measured over the EU's financial year, shows the UK's net contribution for 2014 was £5.7bn. Read more number crunching from Reality Check.

If I retire to Spain or another EU country will my healthcare costs still be covered?

David, from East Sussex, is worried about what will happen to his retirement plans. This is one of those issues where it is not possible to say definitively what would happen. At the moment, the large British expat community in Spain gets free access to Spanish GPs and their hospital treatment is paid for by the NHS. After they become permanent residents Spain pays for their hospital treatment.

In some other EU countries such as France expats of working age are expected to pay the same healthcare costs as locals but once they reach retirement age their medical bills are paid by the NHS.

If Britain remains in the single market, or the European Economic Area as it is known, it might be able to continue with this arrangement, according to a House of Commons library research note. If Britain has to negotiate trade deals with individual member states, it may opt to continue paying for expats' healthcare through the NHS or decide that they would have to cover their own costs if they continue to live abroad, if the country where they live declines to do so.

What will happen to protected species?

Dee, from Launceston, wanted to know what would happen to EU laws covering protected species such as bats in the event of Britain leaving the EU. The answer is that they would remain in place, initially at least. After the Leave vote, the government will probably review all EU-derived laws in the two years leading up to the official exit date to see which ones to keep or scrap.

The status of Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas, which are designated by the EU, would be reviewed to see what alternative protections could be applied. The same process would apply to European Protected Species legislation, which relate to bats and their habitats.

The government would want to avoid a legislative vacuum caused by the repeal of EU laws before new UK laws are in place - it would also continue to abide by other international agreements covering environmental protection.

How much money will the UK save through changes to migrant child benefits and welfare payments?

Martin, from Poole, in Dorset, wanted to know what taxpayers would have got back from the benefit curbs negotiated by David Cameron in Brussels. We don't exactly know because the details were never worked out. HM Revenue and Customs suggested about 20,000 EU nationals receive child benefit payments in respect of 34,000 children in their country of origin at an estimated cost of about £30m.

But the total saving would have been significantly less than that because Mr Cameron did not get the blanket ban he wanted. Instead, payments would have been linked to the cost of living in the countries where the children live. David Cameron said as many as 40% of EU migrant families who come to Britain could lose an average of £6,000 a year of in-work benefits when his "emergency brake" was applied. The DWP estimated between 128,700 and 155,100 people would be affected. But the cuts would have been phased in. New arrivals would not have got tax credits and other in-work benefits straight away but would have gradually gained access to them over a four year period at a rate that had not been decided. The plan will never be implemented now.

Will we be barred from the Eurovision Song Contest?

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Image caption To participate in the Eurovision Song Contest countries need to be a member of the European Broadcasting Union, which is independent of the EU

Sophie from Peterborough, who asks the question, need not worry. We have consulted Alasdair Rendall, president of the UK Eurovision fan club, who says: "All participating countries must be a member of the European Broadcasting Union. The EBU - which is totally independent of the EU - includes countries both inside and outside of the EU, and also includes countries such as Israel that are outside of Europe. Indeed the UK started participating in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1957, 16 years before joining the then EEC."

Has Brexit made house prices fall?

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So far, the answer is no. But there has been anecdotal evidence of house prices falling at the top of the market in Central London and the annual increase in the price of property has fallen from 9.4% at the time of the referendum to 7.2% in December.

What is the 'red tape' that opponents of the EU complain about?

Ged, from Liverpool, suspects "red tape" is a euphemism for employment rights and environmental protection. According to the Open Europe think tank, four of the top five most costly EU regulations are either employment or environment-related. The UK renewable energy strategy, which the think-tank says costs £4.7bn a year, tops the list. The working time directive (£4.2bn a year) - which limits the working week to 48 hours - and the temporary agency workers directive (£2.1bn a year), giving temporary staff many of the same rights as permanent ones - are also on the list.

There is nothing to stop a future UK government reproducing these regulations in British law following the decision to leave the EU. And the costs of so-called "red tape" will not necessarily disappear overnight - if Britain opted to follow the "Norway model" and remained in the European Economic Area most of the EU-derived laws would remain in place.

Will Britain be party to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?

Ste, in Bolton, asked about this. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership - or TTIP - currently under negotiation between the EU and United States would create the biggest free trade area the world has ever seen.

Cheerleaders for TTIP, including former PM David Cameron, believed it could make American imports cheaper and boost British exports to the US to the tune of £10bn a year.

But many on the left, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, fear it will shift more power to multinational corporations, undermine public services, wreck food standards and threaten basic rights.

New US President Donald Trump is not a fan of the TTIP agreement, which means it is now seen as unlikely to be agreed - but whatever happens, when the UK quits the EU it will not be part of TTIP and will have to negotiate its own trade deal with the US.

What impact will leaving the EU have on the NHS?

Paddy, from Widnes, wanted to know how leaving the EU will affect the number of doctors we have and impact the NHS.

This became an issue in the referendum debate after the Leave campaign claimed the money Britain sends to the EU, which it claimed was £350m a week, could be spent on the NHS instead. The BBC's Reality Check team looked into this claim.

Before the vote Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that leaving the EU would lead to budget cuts and an exodus of overseas doctors and nurses. The Leave campaign dismissed his intervention as "scaremongering" and insisted that EU membership fees could be spent on domestic services like the NHS.

Since the referendum spending on the NHS has continued at the same level as planned. EU citizens working for the NHS are expected to get the right to stay in the UK, although details on EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens elsewhere in the EU are yet to be finalised (see earlier answer).

Sally Miller bought a house in Spain nine years ago and plans to retire there in the next five years. She asks how Brexit will affect this.

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The BBC's Kevin Connolly says:

The issue of free movement - the rights of EU citizens to live and work in the UK - was a huge issue in the Brexit referendum of course, and will be a big part of the exit negotiations.

We've heard quite a bit from the British side already with the government saying that securing the status and rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU is one of the government's earliest priorities, and specifically that it is looking for a reciprocal deal.

So you might feel the mood music is encouraging but all we can say for sure is that, while there are no guarantees yet, it will be a big part of the Brexit negotiations to come.

Jonathan Eaton is a Briton living in the Netherlands with his wife, who is Dutch. He asks what rights to benefits and housing he will have if he has to return to the UK.

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BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith says:

The short answer is there is no easy access to benefits. As it stands at the moment, Brexit aside, you will have to pass what's known as a habitual residence test which was introduced in 1994 and applies to British citizens just as EU citizens.

The rules have been tightened up which means for some benefits, if you have been out of the country you can't even think about applying for the test for several months. For example, when it comes to job seeker's allowance, you cannot even take the test to apply for those benefits for three months. And that was done to stop EU citizens coming here and just getting on benefits straight away.

After three months, you can take the test which looks at your English language skills, what sort of efforts you made to find work before coming to the UK. It also considers how strong a tie you have to the UK, whether you have property or family here and what your intentions are in terms of staying and working, or returning.

But once you have taken the test, if you pass it then you should be eligible to apply for a range of benefits, as long as you meet the usual requirements in terms of income and showing you are looking for work. That is likely to continue when we move fully on to Universal Credit.

The one sort of unknown in the whole system is what happens with Brexit negotiations, in terms of guaranteeing the rights of British nationals abroad.

And we simply don't know what that will involve and whether in any way that might impact on how soon you can apply for benefits when you come back to Britain.

Will a Spanish citizen married to an English man be able to stay here once the UK leaves the EU, ask Sarah Rodriguez.

Norman Smith says:

Now, before everyone starts pressing the panic button, for the next two years while we are still in the EU, EU citizens have an absolute right to stay and remain here, no questions asked. It is also true that the government has made absolutely clear they want to guarantee those rights to existing EU citizens who are here and married to Brits after we leave the EU. That is their clear intention.

The reason they have not been able to do that, they say, is that they've not yet been able to firm up the position of Brits in the same position in other parts of the EU. So it's clearly the government's ambition to ensure everything stays the same. If it doesn't, then I guess you'll be in the same position as other non-EU spouses of British citizens. And that would mean that your British spouse would have to be able to show that you had a minimum income of between £18,600 and £27,200 if you were to be allowed to stay.

On the plus side, I think there will be clarity on this pretty quickly because it is clear Mrs May wants this sorted out right at the start of the negotiations. I think many other EU countries think the same, that it's unacceptable to have this level of uncertainty, so it will be decided very, very quickly. And even if it's not, the government is going to have to introduce an immigration bill to announce our new immigration criteria ahead of Brexit.

So it will be in MPs' hands to decide whether EU spouses have the right to remain. But I think we will get clarity sooner rather than later.

What will happen to the European Health Insurance Card when Britain leaves the EU, asks Terry Hunt.

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Norman Smith says:

At the moment, we can be sure that if we feel a little bit peaky in another part of the EU then we're pretty much OK because we can get the same sort of healthcare as citizens already in that country.

That applies to prescriptions, GP visits and hospitals stays. What happens when we leave the EU is, like so much of Brexit-land, unknown. However, what we do know is that the government would rather like the current system to continue.

How do we know that? We know that because the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said as much. In a recent health select committee meeting, he was asked about this and whether the current card scheme would be scrapped and his answer was: "I hope not." So the clear hope of government is that we can pretty much continue with the current arrangements.

If, however, that were not possible, we could still have deals with individual countries about reciprocal health rights, because we already have that with a number of countries such as Australia, Israel, and Russia. But there are no guarantees we will be able to arrive at these reciprocal deals.

So my guess is that it will be in everyone's interest just to carry on with the current coverage. But failing that, my advice would be to keep taking the vitamins, pack some Lemsip and stay away from draughty windows when you're travelling abroad.

Will I have to buy a new passport and driving licence, and will my rights to use them freely across Europe be taken away from me after Brexit, asks Francis Lee.

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Kevin Connolly says:

At the moment UK passports carry the words European Union and British driving licences have the blue square with yellow flags of the EU. That will presumably change after Brexit but it seems likely that the change will be phased in so that you'll simply get documents with the new design when the old ones expire. That's what happened, I seem to remember, when the UK joined the EU. Anything else would be expensive and risk flooding the system, after all.

The right to use them freely is an interesting question. When we talk about restrictions on freedom of movement we generally mean the freedom to live and work in another country. If Britain poses restrictions on the EU in that respect then it can expect some kind of response.

But in terms of tourism there are plenty of non-EU countries whose citizens can visit the UK for up to 90 days without a visa. And, as part of the Brexit negotiations, you'd expect similar arrangements to be discussed for the UK.

Both sides need each others' tourists and, after all, if you can drive a car in the United States on a UK licence then it doesn't seem fanciful to assume that you'll be able to do the same in Europe in future.

It is very clear that the PM and the government want to leave the tyranny of the European Court of Justice. Why has leaving the European Court of Human Rights (an organisation far more hated than the ECJ) been ignored, asks Barry Fryer.

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Kevin Connolly says:

Two different courts here of course, so two different bits of politics. Crucially, the European Court of Human Rights is not an EU institution and that's why discussions about leaving it have not formed a key part of the Brexit debate.

The European Court of Justice - the ECJ - is one of the primary institutions of the European Union and administers EU law. So, while it might have a role in supervising a future trade deal, part of the goal of Brexit was to remove the UK from the ECJ's jurisdiction.

The European Court of Human Rights which, as Barry points out, can be even more controversial, is a body set up not by the EU but by member states of the Council of Europe, a separate institution which contains countries that aren't EU members.

It's this court which has produced rulings which have been controversial in the UK, including blocking the extradition of Abu Qatada and establishing the right of serving prisoners to vote in elections - and leaving the EU won't change anything here.

The 2015 Conservative manifesto talked about curtailing the ECHR's role but not about leaving it altogether. Leaving the court would be another big decision and the government might well decide that it's got enough on its plate at the moment.

Adrian Wallis runs a small electronics company and wants to know about export tariffs after Brexit, and what they'd mean for his business.

Kevin Connolly says:

As long as Britain has been in the EU we haven't really talked much about tariffs. That's because all trade within the European Economic Area is tariff-free. On top of that the EU has trade agreements with 52 other countries as well.

After Brexit, Britain is going to have to negotiate new deals all on its own. That's both a problem and an opportunity.

For example you can use tariffs against foreign imports to protect businesses you care about, as the EU does with agricultural produce, but you do then run the risk of retaliation from your trading partners.

The key body in all of this is the World Trade Organisation and at the moment the UK is only a member via its membership of the EU.

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One bit of good news is that the UK will automatically become a member in its own right as soon as it leaves the EU.

That matters because in the period when the UK is negotiating a new trade deal with the EU, and that could take years, trade would be conducted under WTO rules.

At the moment, for non-food items, that implies an average tariff of about 2.3%

But suppose the EU were to impose a 10% tariff on UK car imports, for example. Well, then the UK could impose the same tariff on German and French cars.

In theory, an economist would say that creates a situation where everyone has an incentive to sort out a better deal for their consumers.

The snag is that these things take years, if not decades. They tend to be done on a country-by-country and sector-by-sector basis.

So if Adrian is waiting to find out the implications for his business, then I'm afraid he's going to have to be patient.

Maybe very, very patient.

What impact will leaving the European Union have on the UK's long term political influence in Europe, asks Peter Hoare.

Norman Smith says:

There are basically two views on what will happen in terms of clout when outside the EU.

View one is that the UK projects power and influence in the world, working through organisations such as the EU and that on our own it'll be a much diminished force.

View two is that unencumbered by the other 27 members, the UK can get on with things and start adopting a much more independent, self-confident, assertive role on the world stage.

My take is that not much is probably going to change.

I say that because the UK'll still be a member of significant organisations such as the UN and Nato, and will still be co-operating with EU partners. For example, there will still be close ties on defence with the French.

The UK will still be the same old Britain, will still have significant military force, will still be a wealthy country and will still be a nuclear power, so I don't think people will suddenly think the UK's an entirely different country.

Are other countries likely to leave the EU and if so could we start a new free trade area, asks David John.

Kevin Connolly says:

Funnily enough, I was discussing this question just the other day with a French politician, a conservative and a real Europhile, and he said he thought if there was a free vote in France tomorrow, as the right wing National Front would like, that the French would vote to leave.

But generally speaking I can't see much prospect of a tidal wave of insurrectionist, exitism sweeping the continent. When a country like Ireland has a spat with the EU about tax, for example, it does annoy Irish politicians, but most mainstream leaders in the Europe have grown up with the idea that the EU has brought peace and prosperity for decades.

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Lots of them see plenty that irritates them about the European Union, but they mainly argue that the benefits hugely outweigh the irritations. And in countries where you do find euroscepticism, such as Poland and Hungary, there is also a healthy awareness that there are huge financial benefits to membership.

As for the future, we will see. If the UK were to get a fantastic Brexit deal then maybe others would be tempted to go.

But the truth is, lots of European politicians want the EU to be tough with Britain precisely to stop other countries from following it through the door.

As to Britain forming its own free trade area, I think it seems an awfully long shot and on balance it is unlikely, not least because there are not that many free countries around available to recruit into another free trade area.

Britain could perhaps join the Free Trade Association along with Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland. But of course it would be joining under existing rules, so the likeliest future for a post-Brexit UK, I think, is a future where it tries to do the best deal possible with the EU and then looks around for other free trade deals.

But that would fall short of creating a free trade area based on the UK itself.

What will happen to the borders in Gibraltar and Northern Ireland, asks Nigel May.

Kevin Connolly says:

I think the question of what is going to happen to difficult borders after Brexit is one of the most difficult of the lot.

Since 1985 when Spain joined the EU, it has basically been prevented from closing the border with Gibraltar as a way of applying pressure to the British territory.

In fact, 12,000 Spanish people cross into the territory to work every day and the area of Spain around Gibraltar is a pretty depressed area so they are important jobs.

On the other hand, the Spanish have talked openly about this being an opportunity to get Gibraltar back. Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, its minister of foreign affairs, said in September the UK's vote to leave the EU was "a unique historical opportunity in more than three hundred years to get Gibraltar back".

But at a minimum, as things stand, it looks to me as though they could certainly re-impose border controls if they chose to.

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The situation with Ireland's border is more complex.

For those of us for whom Northern Ireland is home, the total disappearance of military check points on the border is one of the most tangible daily reminders of the end of the troubles and no one wants a border like that back.

But, when the day comes when Ireland is in the EU and the UK is not, then the Irish border of course is also going to be the UK's land border with the European Union.

The prime minister has said we don't see a return to the borders of the past, but the reality is that if Britain leaves the common customs area, then presumably some sort of checks are going to be necessary on that border.

And if the UK wants to stop Polish or Romanian migrant workers using Dublin airport as a back door into the UK, then it is going to have to do something about that too.

Of course, what it will all mean for towns and villages like Belleek and Belcoo in County Fermanagh, which more or less straddle the border, is hard to imagine.

How much has Brexit cost so far and how much will it cost by the end, asks Simon Johnston.

Norman Smith says:

I think the truth is, no one truly knows what the costs will be of leaving the EU.

That is in part because it is at the very centre of the whole row over Brexit, so if you talk to Brexiteers then they assume we will be "quids in" by leaving the EU, if you talk to Remainers then they assume it is going to be a catastrophe.

We simply don't know because we don't know what is going to happen to the economy, whether it is going to prosper or whether it is going to flounder.

How will EU sponsorship of university research be affected, asks Christopher Lindop.

Kevin Connolly says:

I think this is a really interesting issue and I know there is a lot of fear around this area, and there has even been some talk that European researchers at the moment are being put off applying for funding for joint projects with British partners.

At the moment, EU research funding is organised under a programme called Horizon 2020 and of course Britain, with a long scientific tradition, is a big player in all of that.

Image copyright DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps for that reason it is also one of those areas where the government has already done something, essentially it said it would pick up the tab for any EU research funding that is agreed before Britain leaves the EU.

So if you secure funding in 2017 that stretches on to 2025 then that funding is guaranteed.

Again, a lot is going to depend precisely on what deal the UK can negotiate, but if you look at Horizon 2020, Israel for example has associate membership through a long-standing agreement.

I suppose there is no reason to think, in the end, that the EU would offer something to Israel that it wouldn't also offer to a post-Brexit UK.

How will access to healthcare change for expats living in the EU, asks Veronique Bradley, who lives in Italy.

Kevin Connolly says:

Healthcare is one of those issues that remains relatively simple as long as the UK remains in the EU.

It is just part of a range of citizens' rights that apply across the entire union. After Brexit, I suppose there will be two possibilities.

The first and easiest would be that the negotiators come up with a reciprocal deal that keeps the current arrangements, or something a bit like them, in place.

If they don't, the situation will depend on the individual country where you live.

For the Bradleys in Italy, for example, residents from non-EU countries, and that will soon include the Brits, will have to finalise their residency status, acquire an Italian identity card and then apply for an Italian health insurance card.

If they visit the UK at the moment, access to the NHS for non-resident Brits is not straightforward unless you have a European health insurance card.

The right to treatment is based on residency, not on your tax status.

So, even if you live abroad and pay some British tax on a buy-to-let property for instance, you might find yourself getting a bill for any NHS treatment you end up getting while you are back in the UK.

What will happen to EU nationals who lived and worked in the UK and now receive a British state pension, asks Peter Barz, a German citizen living in the UK.

Norman Smith says:

If you are an EU national and you get a British state pension, nothing much should change, because the state pension is dependent not on where you come from, but on how long you have paid National Insurance contributions in the UK.

So it doesn't matter whether you come from Lithuania or Latvia or Transylvania or Timbuktu, what counts is how much you have paid in terms of National Insurance contributions.

There is one wrinkle though and that is that you have to have paid in for at least 10 years.

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Under the current rules, if you are an EU citizen and haven't paid in for 10 years, you can point to any contributions you have made in your native country and say, "I paid in there", and that will count.

That works for EU countries and another 16 countries with which the UK has social security agreements.

Once we have left the EU, you will no longer be able to do that unless we negotiate new reciprocal agreements.

If we don't then potentially, if you have paid in fewer than than 10 years' worth of National Insurance contributions, you will not get a British state pension.

Is it possible to be both an EU citizen and not an EU citizen, asks Declan O'Neill, who holds an Irish passport.

Kevin Connolly says:

I should probably declare some sort of interest here as a dual Irish and British national myself.

Of course, anyone born in Northern Ireland has an absolute right to carry both passports.

Declan might be happy to know that this is one of the few questions where I can't see a downside as long as you are happy and comfortable carrying both passports.

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The Irish document means you continue to enjoy the benefits of EU citizenship, and the British passport will give you full rights in the UK at the same time.

Call it one of the clear joys of coming from Northern Ireland, alongside the rolling hills, rugged coastline and enjoyable breaks between the showers.

All you have to do is remember to carry the Irish passport when you are joining the EU citizens-only queue at the airport in future.

Is there a get-out clause for Article 50, asks Gillian Coates.

Norman Smith says:

I think the honest answer is you would have to be a legal eagle to answer this.

But my take on it is that legally it looks like once we trigger Article 50 we are locked in, and that is certainly how the European Parliament reads it.

And there is a view that if we were in this two-year process after triggering Article 50 and we wanted to get out of it, then ultimately that would be a decision for the European Court of Justice.

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However, in the real world I think it is likely to be rather different, whatever the legal protocol.

I think the truth is, if we were trundling along and decided it was all going to be catastrophic and we have got to pull up the handbrake pretty sharpish, a lot of other EU countries would be probably be laughing at us, but I think at the same time they would probably be quite pleased we weren't going.

So I think the short answer is: legally, it doesn't look so good if you want to get out of it, but politically, it probably can be done with the support of other European leaders.

Adrian Wallis runs a small electronics company and wants to know about export tariffs after Brexit, and what they'd mean for his business.

Kevin Connolly says:

As long as Britain has been in the EU we haven't really talked much about tariffs. That's because all trade within the European Economic Area is tariff-free. On top of that the EU has trade agreements with 52 other countries as well.

After Brexit, Britain is going to have to negotiate new deals all on its own. That's both a problem and an opportunity.

For example you can use tariffs against foreign imports to protect businesses you care about, as the EU does with agricultural produce, but you do then run the risk of retaliation from your trading partners.

The key body in all of this is the World Trade Organisation and at the moment the UK is only a member via its membership of the EU.

One bit of good news is that the UK will automatically become a member in its own right as soon as it leaves the EU.

That matters because in the period when the UK is negotiating a new trade deal with the EU, and that could take years, trade would be conducted under WTO rules.

At the moment, for non-food items, that implies an average tariff of about 2.3%

But suppose the EU were to impose a 10% tariff on UK car imports, for example. Well, then the UK could impose the same tariff on German and French cars.

In theory, an economist would say that creates a situation where everyone has an incentive to sort out a better deal for their consumers.

The snag is that these things take years, if not decades. They tend to be done on a country-by-country and sector-by-sector basis.

So if Adrian is waiting to find out the implications for his business, then I'm afraid he's going to have to be patient.

Maybe very, very patient.

Eric Degerland asks when UK passports are going to change.

Kevin Connolly says:

This takes us to the heart of an issue that lots of people really care about. It will be a real and palpable sign of Brexit when there is a new UK passport without the words "European Union" on the front cover.

Sadly, the short answer is we don't really know when the change will come about.

But we can say that the cheapest thing for the government to do would be to phase in the new passports as people's old ones expire.

So if you're looking forward to getting back that blue hard-back passport we had in the old days, you may have a long time to wait.

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But we can say that the cheapest thing for the government to do would be to phase in the new passports as people's old ones expire.

So if you're looking forward to getting back that blue hard-back passport we had in the old days, you may have a long time to wait.


Tidal Energy Taking Hold In England

A massive renewable energy project could change the seascape of the Welsh city of Swansea in coming years.

The plan is to encase the city's lagoon in a horseshoe-shaped causeway that will serve as a giant tidal generator. The four-year project is massive, but if it is approved, it would create a long-term reliable source of clean energy.

The 9.5 kilometer horseshoe would literally ring the harbor of Swansea. Once in place, the huge tides on the English coast will be spinning turbines and creating huge amounts of energy.

"We open the gates in the tidal lagoon, let the water through the turbines, and we generate electricity. It's five Olympic swimming pools worth of electricity every second, and that generates enough electricity for 155,000 homes per year," Mark Shorrock, chief executive of Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon Power, said.

The core of the project is this massive generator that is equipped with more than 20, six-meter-high turbines that spin when the tide goes in and the tide goes out, four times a day.

That is energy the designers say residents can count on, unlike wind and solar which can be weather dependent.

"So that's the biggest difference between tidal power and, say, wind and solar power, is that the wind is intermittent and you get the sun during the day," Shorrock said. "With the tides, you always have certain electricity at certain times of the day and then that's staggered at shifts by 40 minutes every day."

The causeway will be created by slowly building it up with giant sandbags. On top of that, it will provide a 9-kilometer causeway for running, biking and sightseeing that proponents say will last hundreds of years.

"Once we build the breakwater wall, it's going to be there for the next 120 years. When we put the turbines in there, they're there for the next 120 years," Shorrock said. "So what's quite interesting about this piece of infrastructure is it's inter-generational. It'll last for the next five generations, producing power throughout its lifetime, working with the rhythm of the tide."

The project will cost an estimated 1.6 billion dollars, and take four years to build. But it will go a long way to replace aging nuclear plants and help the United Kingdom meet its clean energy goals.


Scotland 'could remain in EU after Brexit'

SCOTLAND and Northern Ireland could both remain in the EU pending an independence referendum, according to papers published by a European Parliament committee.

The details emerged as the UK government confirmed the start of the formal Brexit process this week, stating it would make sure "control of our laws lies in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast".

Downing Street said a White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill will be published on Thursday, in a week it claimed would "mark a defining moment in this country's history".

The dramatic move came ahead of speculation that Theresa May will visit Scotland before triggering Article 50, the formal process for leaving the EU is triggered, on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the First Minister said Nicola Sturgeon "would be happy to meet her [May] if and when this [visit] takes place".

The Scottish Parliament is also expected to vote for a second independence referendum on Tuesday, despite the Prime Minister ruling out such a vote before Brexit.

However, the European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee published research saying there was enough "constitutional flexibility" for Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain in the EU ahead of independence referendums being held.

Last night, the Scottish government said the findings showed a desire in Brussels for Scotland to remain in the EU.

A Scottish government source said: “It’s quite clear from the tone that Brussels is open to the idea of Scotland keeping its place in Europe, in line with the way people here voted, even if that was conditional on the outcome of the independence referendum. That openness contrasts with the Tory intransigence we have seen from Westminster.

"But the bottom line is that people in Scotland will be given a choice on this country’s future, in line with the cast-iron democratic mandate which exists for holding the referendum, which we hope will be strengthened when parliament votes on the issue this week.”

Meanwhile, the UK government said the day after Article 50 is triggered its White Paper "will lay out how control over UK law will be returned to our Parliament - thereby ending the supremacy of EU lawmakers".

The UK government went on to state that "our laws will not be made in Brussels, but in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast" and that it would "ensure that more decisions are devolved" after Brexit.

However, the Westminster government refused to state what powers would be devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after Brexit.

A UK government source said: “Next week will mark a defining moment in this country's history, when the Prime Minister invokes Article 50 and opens the way for formal negotiations to leave the European Union and build a truly global Britain.

“But a strong, sovereign country needs control of its own laws. That, more than anything else, was what drove the referendum result: a desire for the country to be in control of its own destiny.

“So next week we will get on with the job, and set out the steps we will take to ensure control of our laws lies in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.”

The European Parliament committee-commissioned report pointed out that Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man had separate arrangements with the EU. The territories, which are British dependencies, are not in the EU, but have access to the Customs Union.

However, the research commissioned by the committee suggested this meant there was scope for Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain in the EU ahead of an independence referendum in the two countries.

In his report, 'Detoxifying the UK's Exit from the EU', political scientist Brendan O'Leary said there was "merit" in such an approach, but that it would be resisted by Westminster.

It said: "An exponent of constitutional flexibility argues that given the status of these dependencies, separate arrangements can also be made for other parts of the UK when England and Wales leave the EU.

"Northern Ireland and Scotland could remain within the EU, at least pending the resolution of their UK status via a border poll (Northern Ireland) or an independence referendum (Scotland).

"Their current status as parts of the UK union have been altered by the decision to leave the EU - a decision rejected by both countries - and as such it would be unfair to forcibly remove them from another union, i.e. the European one. This view may hold merit but has no traction with the Westminster government."

European Union leaders have said that member states should be allowed to pursue integration at different paces. The comments were made as the 27 other EU leaders were marking the union's 60th anniversary at an informal summit in Rome without the Prime Minister, and as thousands joined an anti-Brexit march in Westminster.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker called Brexit a "tragedy" while European Council president Donald Tusk called for sustained unity after May invokes Article 50 on Wednesday.


The Europe we want: Just, Sustainable, Democratic and Inclusive

Posted on 21 March 2017

Europe we want

© We move

This statement was signed by 233 organisation.

As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, we have a momentous opportunity to take stock of how far Europe has come – and how far we still have to go in order to offer a sustainable and prosperous future to everyone in Europe. It is an opportunity that we call on you, the leaders of Europe, to seize with both hands. We call on you to show leadership, vision and courage to set Europe on the path to a sustainable future which realises the rights of all people and respects planetary boundaries.

We must not fail to appreciate how far Europe has come since 1957, when we were a handful of nations determined to emerge from the ashes of World War II and to move towards a peaceful and united common future. Today, the European Union is the largest and most successful peace initiative of our time, a place where Europeans find richness in cultural differences and strength in common values and aspirations, enjoying greater stability, safety and prosperity than in many other places in the world.

But we cannot afford to be complacent: much still needs to be done to construct a sustainable world for current and future generations. While we have seen much progress, the promise of those early days has still not been fully achieved and we have entered an era in which the values at the very heart of Europe – democracy and participation, equality and social justice, solidarity and sustainability, respect for the rule of law and human rights – are being undermined. Citizens are questioning the raison d’être of the European Union, the legitimacy of governments and mainstream politics, and the ability of existing governance structures to respond to society’s most pressing challenges. As a result, trust in public institutions is in decline.

In these uncertain times, European citizens seek a stronger focus on those core ‘European values’, not a reduced one. They seek economic, social and environmental well-being.  Economic well-being in the form of prosperity for all and the redistribution of wealth. Social well-being in the provision of quality, affordable services for all and a reinforcing of the social fabric which binds us together. Environmental well-being residing in a healthy natural environment that sustains all life on Earth and protects our clean water and air.

We therefore call on you, leaders of Europe, to move away from an economic model which has widened inequalities and rather to invest in a ‘social market economy’ that works for the benefit of all people. With poverty and social exclusion at unacceptably high levels, we must return to more inclusive economic policies which ensure that Europe’s prosperity is shared, without harming the planet.

We call on you to uphold our core values and invest in employment and education based on critical thinking in order to defend our open, democratic societies and  to address the sense of insecurity felt by many. We call on you, leaders of Europe, to ensure that gender equality, human rights, freedom of religion, democracy and the rule of law are fully implemented and upheld, both at EU and national level. We want to see a more hospitable Europe where everyone’s contribution is welcome and migration is recognised as a boon to society, not a drain.

Europe also needs to play its part in tackling global challenges. Climate change in particular is an existential risk to our world and it must be tackled not only for environmental reasons, but also to prevent the escalation of conflict, hunger, and forced migration.

Building on our call for ‘A New Europe for People, Planet and Prosperity for All’ (September 2016), we are seizing the opportunity of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome to reaffirm our belief in European integration and to offer concrete proposals for the EU Heads of State and Government as they consider the future of Europe.

United, we call for:

  • A Europe that promotes and protects the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of everyone and supports those beyond its borders to realise their rights;
  • The delivery of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, by putting the Sustainable Development Goals and the principles that underpin it at the core of EU and national policy-making;
  • The full implementation of the Paris Agreement by enhancing energy efficiency and accelerating the just and sustainable transition to clean and affordable renewable energy in order to keep global warming well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to keep it to 1.5°C;
  • A strengthening of our representative and participatory democracy, with distinct space for people’s participation beyond elections, enabling a diverse civil society to flourish;
  • A strengthening of education as a public responsibility that offers lifelong learning for all in order to develop active citizenship, critical thinking, social inclusion and an awareness of sustainable development and human rights;
  • A just transition for workers and industrial regions from the current economic model to a modern, vibrant, green and socially just economy in which our human and natural capital is cherished;
  • A European Social Model that provides full protection to all workers, all consumers and all people living in the EU; one that reverses the wealth gap and reduces poverty and social exclusion;
  • A European Union with a strong social rights pillar, which ensures quality employment and fair pay, and addresses inequalities between women and men, discrimination against children and youth or based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status, age, disability, minority or other status.

In the face of a world that is changing faster than ever before, European unity and solidarity are just as important now as they were 60 years ago. Solidarity brought us together and solidarity is the only way forward.  None of the current challenges can be solved by one nation or one group of people alone.

However, there is an urgent need for the European Union and its institutions to reconnect with the realities, dreams and hopes of its citizens if the long-term relevance and survival of our Union are to be secured. Now is the time to rethink the direction in which we are travelling, build on our achievements and lay the foundations for the next 60 years of European integration.

We expect you, as the leaders of Europe, to do just that: to have the courage and the vision to lead the transition to a just, sustainable, democratic and inclusive Europe. We expect you to listen to the people of Europe and to use the occasion of the Rome Summit to make a strong, joint commitment to a better, more sustainable future. 


Norway spearheads Europe’s electric vehicle surge

European electromobility is beginning to take off. The targets set by the Paris climate deal depend on it. The EU’s Nordic neighbour, Norway, is showing the rest of Europe the way forward. EURACTIV’s partner The Guardian reports.

Oslo, Norway’s capital, like most of the Scandinavian country’s cities and towns, boasts bus-lane access for electric vehicles (EVs), recharging stations aplenty, privileged parking, and toll-free travel for electric cars.

The initiative began in the 1990s as an effort to cut pollution, congestion, and noise in urban centres; now its primary rationale is combating climate change. Today, Norway has the highest per capita number of all-electric (battery only) cars in the world: more than 100,000 in a country of 5.2 million people.

Last year, EVs constituted nearly 40% of the nation’s newly registered passenger cars.

And the Norwegian experiment shows every sign of accelerating. Earlier this year, Norway opened the world’s largest fast-charging station, which can charge up to 28 vehicles in about half an hour.

The Nordic country, joined by Europe’s number two in electromobility, the Netherlands, intends to phase out all fossil fuel-powered automobiles by 2025. Elon Musk, CEO of US electric car company Tesla Motors, responded to Norway’s goal by tweeting: “What an amazingly awesome country. You guys rock!”

Norway is the clear electric vehicle pacesetter in Europe, which now has about 500,000 electric vehicles. China leads the world in EV usage, with about 600,000 all-electric vehicles on its roads and an ambitious plan to deploy 5 million EVs by 2020.

Surge in electric cars could strain energy grid, warns EU agency

The large scale roll-out of electric cars on EU roads will help fight climate change but more electricity will have to be generated to power the vehicles which, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has warned, could have its own impact on global warming.

The US ranks third globally, with fewer than 500,000 EVs. But electric vehicle momentum is picking up across the Atlantic, as evidenced by the 400,000 people who have paid $1,000 to be on the waiting list for Tesla’s $35,000 Model 3 car.

The trailblazing achievements of the Norwegians and the Dutch are just one reason that many experts see 2017 as a crucial breakout year for electric mobility in Europe and beyond.

Experts acknowledge that in the past the numbers have never quite lived up to the hype around EVs or other alternative transportation technologies.

Indeed, in 2016, only 2 million electric and hybrid passenger cars were on the road worldwide – about 0.2% of the global fleet; in Europe, significantly less than 1% of new car registrations are battery-electric vehicles (as opposed to hybrid cars).

Big questions still loom, such as whether there will be sufficient renewable energy supplies to power vast new fleets of EVs. If electric vehicles are charged with fossil fuel-generated electricity, the result is more, not fewer, greenhouse gas emissions.

Nevertheless, because of rapid technological advances and strong government support for EVs in Europe and China, experts maintain that a new era in electromobility is dawning – and that this time there’s more to the prediction than industry optimism.

“We’re convinced that Europe and other continents, too, are now turning the corner on e-mobility,” said Lars Mönch of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency. “It’s the aim of all big cities worldwide to ambitiously tackle the climate and urban congestion issues that they all face.”

Referring to the provisions of the Paris agreement on climate change, in which nations pledged emissions cuts aimed at holding temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius, Mönch added, “There are goals now for the transportation sector that can only be met with alternative forms of mobility.”

Norway illustrates that with incentives that eliminate the price advantage of conventional gas-burning vehicles, many people will go for the electric option. And since 98 % of Norway’s electricity comes from hydropower, the country’s burgeoning EV fleet leaves almost no carbon footprint.

Many European experts and industry representatives see the Norwegian model, minus the whopping subsidies, as a sign of where European electromobility is heading.

Magdalena Jozwicka of the European Environment Agency, a Copenhagen-based EU body, says the EU looks to non-EU member Norway for inspiration. Even though it’s highly subsidised, e-mobility in Norway has caught fire on account of its own virtues, she said, noting its contribution to air quality and the many perks that e-cars enjoy.

Thanks to its lucrative offshore oil and natural gas business, Norway can afford to promote e-mobility with generous incentives, including the considerable bonus of exemption from a 25% sales tax.

Norway’s access to abundant and cheap zero-emission hydroelectric power means it can even offer e-car owners free power charging at public charging stations.

Elsewhere in Europe, the main driver for EV growth isn’t subsidies but legislation, explains Wolfgang Bernhart of the international consulting firm Roland Berger, referring to the EU’s mandatory emissions-reduction targets for new cars.

By 2021, the average emissions of all new cars sold must be 40% less than what the average car on the road emits today – an extremely ambitious goal that can only be met by the rapid, large-scale adoption of electric vehicles.

“Every city in the EU is working toward this,” he says, noting that fine particulate pollution is also an issue in European metropolises. “A certain share of electric mobility of one type or another is really the only solution.”

In Europe, transportation is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. And while Europe’s industrial emissions have fallen by 38% since 1990, those in the transportation sector – including aviation – have increased by 9%.

The 2015 Paris climate accord and follow-up agreements stipulate that every signatory country propose national goals for climate protection, including – explicitly for the first time – for the transportation sector.

Moreover, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that greenhouse gas emissions from transportation will “increase by 120% from 2000 to 2050 as a result of a projected three-fold increase” in the number of cars worldwide.

Some industry and advocacy groups have set a global deployment target of 100 million electric cars and 400 million electric motorcycles and scooters by 2030.

The upbeat assessments about e-mobility’s future are grounded in recent developments, including rapid advances in EV technology and China’s new-found commitment to decarbonisation.

Moreover, 2016 saw a surge in EV sales globally, 30% more than in 2015, and an expansion of charging infrastructure, both trends that will carry into 2017 and probably beyond.

Falling prices for EVs and recent technological developments have changed the game. For one, the cost of lithium-ion batteries, which account for about 40% of an EV or hybrid vehicle’s cost, has fallen by two-thirds since 2010 — much faster than experts had anticipated and with further steep reductions expected in the near future.

Six years ago, the average EV battery sold for more than $1,000 per kilowatt-hour; now it goes for less than $350. It could drop to as low as $125 in the near future, industry experts say.

China’s sudden and muscular emergence in the world of electromobility has internationalised momentum for electric vehicles.

What’s more, as battery technology develops — in particular the improving “energy density” of lithium-ion batteries, enabling them to store more power with less weight — the range of EVs is rising dramatically from the under 100-miles-per-charge of the first generation of e-cars.

A second generation of EVs is in production now and they are considerably lighter, longer-range automobiles than those launched five years ago. With the shock of Tesla’s unexpected advances, European car manufacturers have invested heavily in the forthcoming EVs, convinced that they either do so or lose out in the long run.

“We’re now flipping the switch,” said Daimler’s CEO Dieter Zetsche last year. “We’re ready for the launch of an electric product offensive that will cover all vehicle segments, from the compact to the luxury class.” European car makers have also lobbied forcefully for governments to provide bigger rebates and tax incentives in different forms to stimulate the domestic markets.

However, even a range exceeding 200 miles doesn’t alleviate the necessity for periodically recharging. The frequency of – and distance between– charging facilities has long been, and remains, one of the key sticking points that make potential buyers hesitate.

Charging infrastructure in Europe has grown since 2013 at a rate of 30% to 60% a year. The continent now has more than 100,000 charging spots, all but a few thousand of them “slow chargers”, which take as long as eight hours to juice up a battery.

Significantly reducing charging times is essential to the widespread adoption of EVs, and Europe has recently added 1,300 DC “fast chargers” to the network, namely stations that repower EVs in little more time that it takes to fill up with gas. But, unless you’re in Scandinavia, it’s still difficult to travel long distances in Europe with an all-electric plug-in vehicle.

The EU appears newly determined to get behind the push for more charging points by stipulating that as of 2019, every newly built or refurbished house from Cyprus to Lapland will have to have an EV charging station.

By 2023, 10% of all buildings’ parking spaces must have EV chargers. Europe’s automakers now recognise their own interest in finally outfitting the continent with the chargers that their electric fleets require.

But as the EEA’s Jozwicka notes, EVs “are only as clean as their source of power. The e-mobility revolution has to go hand-in-hand with a transition to clean energy or it doesn’t make any sense.”


David Scrimgeour: Scotland has much to gain from Bavaria

Bavaria and Scotland are old friends who have not seen much of each other over the years.

That is about to change with a 40-strong delegation from the “Free State” visiting Glasgow and Edinburgh later this week. The mission, led by the Bavarian Economic Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ilse Aigner, will be in Scotland to promote business co-operation and closer government relations.

Bavaria has plenty to offer a Scotland that is in urgent need of European partners

• READ MORE: Diary of a tech trade mission to Bavaria

The 17 town twinnings between the two regions are the bedrock of the relationship, with the oldest of these dating back to 1954 when a group of Munich schoolchildren was invited to Edinburgh by the city council. Since the 1950s, hundreds of schoolchildren and other Scots have enjoyed Bavarian hospitality and vice versa. Now the plan of both governments is to build on these civic and cultural connections and stimulate business activity in the energy, technology and research sectors.

Bavaria has plenty to offer a Scotland that in 2017 and all of its political ramifications is in urgent need of European partners. With a population of over 12 million and a GDP of €550 billion, the southern German region of Bavaria has a larger economy than 21 of the 28 EU member states. Much of this success can be attributed to political stability and a strategic partnership between government and industry.

200 Voices: find out more about the people who have shaped Scotland

So why are Minister Aigner and some 30 companies and organisations taking the time to travel to Scotland – in reality, a relatively small market on the fringes of Europe and, from a trading perspective, prone to political risks and a the currency volatility that comes with the territory? In my view, there are two reasons.

The first is that the Scottish Government and industry have combined in an impressive manner to develop renewable energy projects. This reputation has already attracted numerous German developers and equipment manufacturers, a couple of them from Bavaria, and that gives Scotland a track record for being a place to do business.

The second and more important reason is that it is vitally important in these turbulent times in Europe that friends with similar values stick closely together. The Government and the electorate in Scotland have demonstrated unequivocal support for the European idea of peace and solidarity and this is highly valued by our German friends. The world is really the Bavarian “Mittelstand’s” oyster and these companies are trading and exporting in every corner of the world.

Bavaria has form in this mixing of commerce and diplomacy. In the 1980s, a co-operation was started with the Canadian province of Quebec and fast forward 30 years and over 600 commercial, research and cultural projects have been delivered by representatives based in Munich and Montreal. A real balance has been achieved in that universities, SMEs, major corporations and local communities have all had the opportunity to engage, a fantastic example of effective economic development at its best.

In 2003, a memorandum of understanding was signed by the Scottish and Bavarian governments but Scotland failed to follow up on the offer.

Reassuringly, there are signs though that the same mistake will not be made twice. Supported by government funding, Scotland’s chambers of commerce are currently forging partnerships with their Bavarian counterparts.

Most encouraging of all, is that the overall Scottish response to the planned two-day mission which I am helping to organise has been overwhelmingly positive. Government agencies, local authorities, chambers of commerce, universities and companies are all pitching in to ensure that this, to paraphrase Rick in Casablanca, is the new beginning of a beautiful friendship.

David Scrimgeour MBE, who was the Scottish Government’s investment representative in Germany and Austria in the 1990s, is the founder of the British-German Business Network

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Scotland grants planning consent for 12MW Dounreay Tri floating wind farm

EBR Staff Writer Published 20 March 2017

The Scottish government has granted planning consent for the 12MW Dounreay Tri floating wind farm demonstrator project off the Caithness coast.

Located about 9km off Dounreay, the project is being developed by Swedish engineering company Hexicon. It is planned to be commissioned in June 2018.

Featuring two turbines, the project aims to demonstrate Hexicon's semi-submersible foundation for offshore wind power.

Scottish Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse said: “Once operational, this demonstrator project will help to develop this pioneering technology and cement Scotland’s reputation at the forefront of innovation in the renewables sector.”

Wheelhouse noted that the latest consent for project increases the Scottish Government’s approved floating offshore wind capacity to 92MW, which is enough to power almost 60,000 homes.

“The Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting low carbon energy is outlined in our draft Energy Strategy which sets out next steps and how we will continue to transition to a low carbon economy, with the offshore wind sector – developed with due regard to our natural environment - playing an increasingly influential role.”

The Dounreay project is expected to generate clean electricity required to power almost 8,000 homes. It will also help in creating 100 jobs during assembly, installation and through ongoing operations and maintenance activities.

The project comprises a semi-submersible platform fitted with two wind turbines, each with 5MW capacity, as well as mooring lines or chains, and drag-embedment anchors.

Recently, the Scottish government approved the Kincardine floating offshore wind farm followed by consent of the Hywind Scotland Pilot in 2016.


Lightsource adds 50MW in UK

14 projects grid connected ahead of 31 March 1.2 ROC deadline

Lightsource adds 50MW in UK image

Lightsource Renewable Energy has connected 14 new solar plants in the UK with combined capacity of over 50MW, ahead of the 31 March deadline for the 1.2 Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC).

EPC contractors Biosar, Egnatia and Grupotec worked with Lightsource to deliver the projects.

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The developer said it is looking to add more 1.2 ROC projects to its portfolio through acquisitions.

Lightsource chief operating officer Kareen Boutonnat said: “While we have now connected all Lightsource developed 1.2 ROC projects, we are still looking to connect additional 1.4 ROC projects this March and next year in Northern Ireland.”

Image: Lightsource Renewable Energy


German solar power association: Europe far from being energy pioneer

Solar energy will be critical to German and European efforts to decarbonise their economies. EURACTIV Germany reports on what contribution local schemes can make to European energy policy.

Jörg Mayer is managing director of the German solar industry association (BSW-Solar).

Mayer spoke to EURACTIV.de Editor-in-Chief Ama Lorenz.

After years of overcapacity, bankruptcies and falling prices, where does the European solar market stand today?

We think that Europe’s solar market is unsatisfactory. In the last few years, a sharp decline has been seen. Although the low numbers have stabilised thanks to expansion in the United Kingdom, we are still, overall, far from being an energy transition pioneer at a global level. That role has been taken on by other continents.

What is to blame for this stagnation?

So far, construction of new photovoltaic (PV) systems have been dealt with under national law. Certainly, there are some reasonable harmonisation efforts at EU level, like cross-border tenders or in terms of energy networks. But, like I said, legislative power over renewable energies lies at national level. Last year, PV expansion was still primarily funded through feed-in-tariffs. But they were lowered too quickly by some countries to an unfeasible level. In addition, other business models have been limited and fossil fuels are still preferred. That’s why we shouldn’t be surprised that the construction of new renewable energy capacity has slumped.

The European Parliament, at the same time, ratified the Paris climate agreement in autumn 2016…

It isn’t just a question of being a frontrunner in terms of the markets. In Europe, we have committed ourselves to meeting specific climate goals. We can only meet them through using renewable energies like PV systems. But we are not going to reach these targets if unambitious policies on energy transition continue to prevail in most European countries.

Sluggish renewables investment poses challenge to EU energy plans

European investment in renewables has dropped by half since 2011 but the EU remains “well on track” to hit its 2020 target of boosting the sector by 20%, the European Commission said today (1 February) as it launched its second report on its Energy Union strategy.

Do you count Germany among those?

It looks like Germany will make progress in 2017 actually. In 2016, PV took a 7.4% share of electricity consumption, no mean feat, and more than we had hoped for. Together with other energy sources like wind power, over 30% of electricity consumption in Germany came from renewables. That makes 2016 a huge success. In principle, Germany’s Energiewende in terms of electricity production is on the right track. Even though construction of new PV systems has been at a worryingly low level over the past year, we have reason to believe that new installations will be put in place in the future.

What makes you so optimistic?

Firstly, the repair job done on the so-called degression mechanism for solar subsidies. The German government-approved Renewable Energy Sources Act (EGG) for 2017 means that support for PV systems could be profitable again. Coupled with falling system prices, more and more investors are realising that it’s a financially viable option. We hope that it 2017 we can add 2 GW of capacity. Even if we are not as successful as we were in 2010, it would still be a turnaround.

There’s another trend of note too: over the past five years, solar companies have started to fund their own projects. Your association has been leading Project PV Financing, which examined alternative business models in six other European countries. What results did those investigations yield?

The project started back in 2015 with the aim of analysing European business models that work without or largely without subsidies. Looking to the future, we are looking for a solution that will allow PV to stand on its own two feet. In addition to Germany, we have identified appropriate models in France, Italy, Austria, Spain, the UK and also in Turkey. As well as finding recommendations that allow users to overcome barriers that still hinder business models.

What barriers, in particular?

Well, for example, certain types of internal consumption are not legally permissible in countries like Austria, Spain, Turkey and, yes, Germany too. For us, the EEG levy affects the profitability of these models. In particular, the neighbourhood supply (Mieterstrommodell). This currently only works when proprietors and consumers of the electricity are the same entity. It applies to the owner of a detached house but not for the tenants of a block of flats. Regarding the latter, it would automatically come under the rules governing a classic supplier relationship. If the owner of a block of flats put a PV cell on the roof, the tenants would have to pay taxes and fees on top of paying for consumption. This would mean a kilowatt hour would cost 28-29 cents.

So this model would not only fight social imbalances but also bring the energy transition into urban spaces then.

Exactly, the political idea behind this is to provide those who participate, and who cannot afford their own homes, to be able to produce their own lost cost PV electricity. That is why the owner of the roof and the PV system itself must be able to provide power to tenants without incurring the usual taxes and fees. These costs could be compensated by a special subsidy, probably in the form of a special tariff for these neighbourhood schemes.

So in terms of European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič’s plans in the Winter Package…

We see a big problem in the Winter Package, in that PV systems and private consumption are still undervalued. The member states must be more clearly prompted to promote these models and to be prevented from introducing retroactive measures, like those in the Czech Republic or Spain, that have completely destroyed investor confidence in those markets.

Maybe there is a chance that Germany can champion PV systems’ cause at EU level?

We are going to come up with some appropriate recommendations in the remaining months of this project, which we will submit to the EU and we are holding talks with the German government. There is huge potential in the Energiewende and citizen participation behind business models like the ones we have talked about. It’s not just a question of reducing the burden on energy systems, solar energy can also become an even more important pillar of the transition.


Statkraft commissions Andershaw wind farm in Scotland

Published 10 March 2017

Andershaw Wind Farm, Statkraft's 36.3MW onshore wind project located in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, is now fully operational.

Construction of Andershaw began in late 2015. The civils infrastructure works were completed by Scottish contractor R J McLeod and the electrical infrastructure works were delivered by Powersystems UK.

The wind farm consists of 11 Vestas V117 wind turbines which were delivered in parts to Inchgreen Dock near Greenock and King V Dock near Braehead. The various components were then transported as separate loads and assembled at site between July and October 2016.

The construction of the wind farm has been a boost to the local economy with around £2.5 million being spent in the region on items ranging from aggregates, to steel, transport and local plant and machinery hire.

Around a third of the workforce on site during construction came from South Lanarkshire and 3 full time jobs have been created in the region to support operations.

Now fully operational, Andershaw Wind Farm will make a valuable contribution to Scotland's ambitious renewable energy targets, providing clean electricity to meet the needs of approximately 23,400 homes annually.

David Flood, Vice President of Asset Ownership UK at Statkraft, said: "We're delighted to see this important project reach completion with all turbines now fully operational."

"The completion of Andershaw Wind Farm marks the culmination of several years of effort to safely and responsibly deliver this large energy project. I'm especially pleased at the success we've had delivering regional economic benefits from the construction activity."

During the life of the wind farm Statkraft will pay £2.2 million into the South Lanarkshire Renewable Energy Fund as a way for the project to provide meaningful financial assistance to local projects and initiatives. The fund is already open for applications from nearby groups, societies and organisations.

A further £800,000 will be spent on a Forestry Habitat Management Plan to restock the site with mixture of conifers and native woodland to encourage local biodiversity.

The project is Statkraft’s third onshore wind development in Scotland, and follows on from the successful construction of the 52.5 megawatt Baillie Wind Farm and the 66MW Berry Burn Wind Farm, which became operational in 2013 and 2014.

Source: Company Press Release