EU hints at a Brexit ‘energy blockade’ – but power blackouts are a hollow threat. Brussels is making an overt link between full fishing access to UK waters and maintaining normal energy flows through the interconnectors. The EU has threatened to cut off “top-up access” to European electricity and gas pipelines in the case of a no-deal Brexit, raising the risk of supply squeeze during peak winter demand and potentially a halt to flows in an extreme scenario. European officials deny that this amounts to a Putin-style energy boycott but are clearly dialling up pressure in an increasingly risky game of strategic brinkmanship. There is now an overt linkage between full fishing access to UK waters and the continuation of normal energy flows through the interconnectors, even though the issues have nothing in common and even though energy supply is a sensitive matter of national security and would normally be off limits in such talks. In the longer run, it is the EU that faces an energy problem. It is winding down nuclear plants. The gas fields of northern Holland are depleting. Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is near death. Continued reliance on coal is incompatible with net-zero policy. The EU will increasingly need zero-carbon power from British offshore wind power as North Sea expansion turns the UK into a large net exporter, the “Saudi Arabia of wind power” in the Prime Minister’s words. If the EU refuses to buy this clean wind power for ideological or punitive reasons, the UK can turn it into green hydrogen for global export. That might be even more lucrative eventually. Of all the Brexit scares so far, the ‘energy blockade’ is just about the silliest, but imperial diplomacy nonetheless.
Telegraph 13th Nov 2020 read more »