Scholz turns to Rishi for post-Brexit gas deal to swerve blackouts

European Parliament President calls for EU wide gas cap

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Germany is turning to the UK to prevent blackouts this winter and is looking to strike a post-Brexit energy pact that would allow the two countries to help each other in the event of a gas shortage. Together, the two countries are Europe’s largest consumers of natural gas and have been among the worst impacted by the fossil fuel energy crisis that was triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Germany was heavily dependent on Russian gas supplies, accounting for 40 percent of its energy mix in 2021. Over the past year, Russian President Vladimir Putin has weaponised this dependence by squeezing gas flows to the continent, leading to fears that Moscow would completely cut off Germany this winter. 

Now, Berlin is looking to the UK for help, as German officials said that were were “keen to talk” to the UK about striking a solidarity pact, where both countries could bail each other out if they faced extreme gas shortages this winter. 

Speaking to the Guardian, Klaus Müller, the German civil servant responsible for rationing in the case of a supply crisis said that striking such a deal would be “mutually beneficial” for both countries. 

Mr Muller, the head of the federal network agency for utilities, Bundesnetzagentur, said: “With its long coastline, the UK has a geographic advantage when it comes to infrastructure for importing liquid natural gas [LNG].

“But the experience of the last few weeks has also shown us that the size of the gas network also matters. The larger the network, the easier to adjust temporary deficits.”

However, post-Brexit limitations mean any emergency gas support scheme struck between the UK and Germany cannot replicate the “security of supply” (SoS) deals that exist between the European Union member states. 

Despite this, Mr Muller and spokespeople from the German government have suggested that they were willing to cooperate outside existing regulations. 

He said: “Legally, Great Britain has left European solidarity mechanisms, but the pipelines between the countries are still there. We would always raise our voices to say: let’s act with as much European solidarity as possible.”

While Germany is looking to the UK for help, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is said to be close to sealing a gas deal with the US as Britain attempts to shore up sufficient energy supplies for the looming winter.

This could provide a huge lifeline as the UK tries to avoid a situation where lacking energy imports forces National Grid blackouts during the coldest months.

Mr Sunak is expected to announce the major gas deal with the US once the COP27 climate summit in Egypt draws to a close as talks over an “energy security partnership” enter their final stages.

The US is expected to sell Britain billions of cubic metres of liquefied natural gas (LNG) over the coming year. If this deal comes to fruition, it will release some of the energy-related pressure on Russia, after Putin warned he will “freeze” Europe and bring supplies to a grinding halt.

While the UK does not import gas from Russia, it has been severely hit by the crisis because of how heavily it depends on natural gas for heating. Meanwhile, Britain also has some of Europe’s lowest gas storage capacity. 

Over the past few months, Berlin has imported large quantities of natural gas, fearing a potential winter cut-off, and as a result, Germany was able to shore up a record 99.4 percent of its storage tanks. 

Mr Müller said he was increasingly confident Germany had “a good chance” of making it through winter without being forced to ration supplies, “thanks to imports from Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France”

“If we manage to stick to the 20 percent savings target as a minimum, have an average winter temperature and no unexpected events in our neighbouring countries, then Germany has a chance – and by now I would say a good chance – to get through the winter without shortages. But to get there will still require an unrelenting effort.”

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