North Sea Oil and Brexit?

In 1972 the British parliament passed a law to begin the process of joining the European Economic Community, a trading block on the mainland, it was hoped would reverse that country’s fortunes, Nearly forty five years later the (now somewhat less united) United Kingdom is beginning the process of withdrawing from said trading bloc.

But what does this have to do with Peak Oil?

uk oil production

The intervening years of EU membership were a time of considerable prosperity for Britain. This is partially due, no doubt, to the EC emphasis on cohesion and aid given by the to de-industrialised parts of Britain known as the Structural funds. Many of our European partners at the time were further down the road Britain was taking having lost our overseas possessions and recovered from the last world war. But the UK was lucky: one new source of wealth came on stream during that period. North sea oil and gas had been discovered during the 1960’s and in the early 1970′ s the oil rigs had been deployed and were starting to strike oil. Production increased and peaked in the 1980’s then again around the millennium. Otherwise the production maintained a shape consistent with “Hubberts peak” – a bell shaped curve of production plotted against time. Since the millennium the oil production has exhibited an accelerating rate of decline to the time of writing, The current output is now (figure) which represents a rundown of British oil reserves. Surely the biggest bonanza since the coal and iron deposits that fuelled the industrial revolution. The closure of this chapter of British resource extraction and the withdrawal from the EU cannot just be coincidence.

This is extremely puzzling when viewed through it apparently being Britain’s rather than the European Union wishing to end the arrangement. The popular discourse on Britain’s choice to leave the EU is that it is “taking control” and will benefit from going alone, and whilst the decision to join the EU might have been correct in the 1970’s, in present times the EU has become too “bureaucratic” and it is time to leave. But what if this is an illusion, whether self delusion from the British public egged on by its media, or deliberately engineered by Europe itself?

Many consider that the UK managed to dodge its own imperial decline by joining the EU. 1970’s Britain was considered the “sick man of Europe’ with a stagnant economy, industrial pollution and declining international influence. Having had the benefit of EU access and oil energy since the 1970’s gave us great prosperity. Who knows what will happen with these gone…

The USA is also worthy of mention, having kept us as a client state since the 1940’s. Despite the appearance of a special relationship we have had to take their assistance on whatever terms they have thought they could get away with, With Britain having lost the position as a bridge to Europe and the United States at any rate exhibiting senility, I think it is fair to say the transatlantic relationship is probably not the best horse to back. So the UK finds itself with a three pronged dilemma. The end of a resource and energy glut from the North Sea, the loss of its biggest trading block and its irrelevance to an increasingly irrelevant USA. Suddenly British modern (post empire) history looks like 45 years of gravity defied…

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