Offshore Marine Management (OMM) is urging Westminster to consider the impact of Brexit on the future of the offshore renewables industry, ahead of the return of the EU Withdrawal Bill to the UK House of Commons on 12 June.
The call comes after the House of Lords backed an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, obliging the UK to remain in the European Economic Area (EEA) when it leaves the EU in 9 months’ time. Also known as the “Norway model”, should this be accepted by the Commons, it would allow the UK to retain key aspects of the single market.
One such key aspect is free movement of people – a major factor in the flexible workforce available to UK businesses, which as of last year built half of Europe’s offshore wind power, OMM said. The major role that Britain plays in meeting the demand for renewable energy could, however, be compromised if Parliament does not ensure that laws are in place to allow the offshore renewables industry to secure a stable qualified workforce with the ability to move freely across Europe.
The risk is that, due to the extra administration that would be required, there will be a reduction in British personnel available to work in EU waters and vice versa. A cut to supply of this kind could have a severe impact on the industry, hampering the targets it is forecasting beyond 2025 due to unknown rising costs, according to OMM.
“It is crucial that MPs give due consideration to the offshore renewables industry ahead of their decision on the EU Withdrawal Bill, given the importance of a secure and flexible workforce to the work that we do,'' OMM Director, Rob Grimmond said.
“There is potential for the increased administration costs associated with the end of free movement privileges to significantly restrict the opportunities available to our team and others alike. This will not only have negative implications for British businesses like OMM, but also for the renewables industry across Europe as a whole, in light of the significant role we play in offshore wind production.”
Offshore Marine People Academy (OMPA), who train and provide personnel for the offshore and marine industries, have echoed the calls of sister company OMM for full consideration of the offshore renewables industry by Parliament as the EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the Commons.
“Staying within the EEA could mitigate the additional costs, administration and risk to quick response presented by working with countries that require British workers to complete visa applications, and as such would give our skilled and experienced workers the continued opportunity to operate successfully in European waters,'' Anthony Lewis of OMPA said:
''Should the House of Commons decide to reject this, it is important that they work with the industry to secure an alternative deal that will safeguard industry jobs and, indeed, the UK’s offshore capability.”