Some UK energy suppliers have faced closure due to rising gas prices and more are on the brink.
London: UK’s recovery from the pandemic has seen a surge in demand for gas as industry has reopened. As UK has enjoyed North Sea Gas on tap UK have less storage capacity than the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Poland or Germany; but some North Sea Gas fields are becoming depleted and investment is required to open new fields, currently UK gets gas from Netherlands, Norway, Belgium and Qatar.
Russia’s Gazprom has upped the prices for natural gas exports to Europe and has cautioned on the volumes available for shipping, as domestic priorities will trump exports. The Nordstream2 1,200klms pipeline has been geopolitically controversial since 2016, it travels from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany and was completed in September. The new German government is expected to launch the pipeline this year, but it is unlikely this will immediately UK reduce gas prices as topping up depleted supplies will be more important.
UK faces petrol, diesel, and gas shortages and possibly some more supermarket shortages this winter as supply chains come under scrutiny. Felixstow, UK’s largest commercial port which deals with 36% of UK imports had to turn away an 800,000 tonne cargo ship as there was no space to unload the containers. Previous containers are still there due to the shortage of Heavy Goods Vehicle drivers, which is largely due to the 25 week industrial action strike by members of the Public and Commercial Services Union who work at the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency); in the coming weeks members will vote on continuing the strike, they would like to see less people working from the DVLA offices during the ongoing pandemic, more than 500 employees have been Covid positive.
Some UK energy suppliers have faced closure due to rising gas prices and more are on the brink. Chancellor Rishi Sunak will have to use all his guile and fiscal expertise to stave off Cabinet Secretaries demanding more money concurrently with introducing his Autumn Budget and the Spending Review, which will start to reduce UK’s £304Billion deficit. After some tense toing and froing about business bailouts between Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary for Business and Energy, and Sunak, Boris Johnson has said the government will offer emergency support for energy dependent businesses. Sunak knows there is no magic money tree and is avoiding a bailout precedent, fiscal conservatives will support him on any austerity measures, however Global Britain, the NHS and the PM’s Levelling Up agenda all require more spending, Sunak has a tightrope to walk. Until now Sunak has been the golden heir apparent to No10, recently this golden spot has a new contender in Foreign Secretary Liz Truss whose ratings are soaring. This reporter can see no reason why they cannot share that coveted spot in the fashionable spirit of gender equality.
The Northern Ireland Protocol- Border in the Irish Sea issue is yet to be resolved, Lord Frost gave a speech in Lisbon-Portugal that defined UK’s past, present and would-be geopolitical relationship with Europe, UK is aiming for strategic autonomy. But the Protocol can only be resolved if there is willingness and trust on each side, Lord Frost said significant change to the protocol is required and presented a new Protocol, which looks more like a normal Treaty in the way it is governed, with international arbitration instead of a system of EU law ultimately policed in the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Lord Frost is appealing to the EU in the Gandhian spirit of peaceful negotiation as opposed to constant confrontation. The EU have responded by changing the existing Protocol and altering some EU rules to help speed up customs formalities, reduce paperwork, and boost supply chains of medicines, food, plant and animal health issues, but no movement on the ECJ. The EU team is exasperated by UK manoeuvres, and they will not tolerate any challenge to the Republic of Ireland’s place in the single market. A meeting will be held between Frost and his counterpart Maroš Šefčovič which will tell if good faith prevails.
The public’s good faith in the fringe movement “Insulate Britain” is being tested, the Extinction Rebellion backed protestors have blocked major roads, causing long delays and tedious disruption; the commuting workforce find this an ineffective tactic to attract supporters to a cause.
UK-India bilateral relations are looking perkier, this week Boris Johnson spoke to Narendra Modi, Liz Truss spoke to Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, at the G20 in Italy Trade Secretaries Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Piyush Goyal had their arm around each other in a publicity photo; all this is good news for COP26, foreign policy and the long awaited trade deal.