UK prime minister Boris Johnson has said the government will be setting out a new energy supply strategy in the coming days as oil prices surge to record highs amid the Ukraine crisis.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday alongside Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Dutch PM Mark Rutte, Johnson warned that Europe could not simply ban the use of oil and gas overnight but that countries should move together quickly to look beyond Russia for energy supplies.
Asked whether there would be a European ban on oil imports from the Kremlin, he said: “There are different dependencies in different countries, and we have to mindful of that, and you can’t simply close down the use of oil and gas overnight even from Russia.
“We can go fast in the UK…what we need to do is to make sure we are all moving the same direction… and that we accelerate that move and I think that’s what you are going to see.”
Johnson added that the government needs to ensure substitute supply, but warned “there are going to be impacts” for people in the UK, adding there needs to be more use of nuclear and renewable energy.
The PM is set to join a call with US president Joe Biden, French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Olaf Scholz later on Monday.
Johnson’s announcement follows earlier remarks from James Cleverly, Europe minister, that the UK will consider barring Russian oil imports after the US said it was in talks to do so.
Cleverly told Times Radio on Monday: “We import very, very little Russian hydrocarbons anyway. So that’s something that we will of course, consider.”
British lawmakers are also looking to amend legislation to make it easier to implement sanctions against Russian oligarchs, which could see their assets frozen. MPs are tabling changes to the Economic Crime Bill which will allow Britain to align penalties imposed by allies in the EU and US.
Meanwhile, the deadline for oligarchs to register their property could be cut further.
The PM hinted at a further cut to the grace period for foreign owners of UK property to register their interests amid tightening sanctions against wealthy Russians.
While the government plans to give people six months to comply with its new register, this is already down from the original 18 months, the Labour Party is pushing for a 28-day notice period to prevent people from having time to move assets overseas.
The register is part of the government’s economic crime bill, which aims to make it easier to sanction individuals, is due to be voted on in the House of Commons later on Monday.
“We certainly want to go as fast as possible,” Johnson said. “There is more to be done.”
Johnson’s announcement comes after Europe’s largest economy, Germany slammed the breaks on talks about a potential Russia energy import ban. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said supplies from the Kremlin were of “essential importance” to the bloc’s economy, adding that heating, transport and electricity could not be secured otherwise.
Scholz said that while the EU faced an urgent task of finding alternatives to Russian energy supplies, this won’t happen overnight. “It’s therefore a conscious decision on our part to continue the activities of business enterprises in the area of energy supply with Russia.”
While Russian supplies can’t be stopped “overnight” it is important to cut reliance on Russian energy, Rutte said during the conference.
Oil surged to a 14-year high as the US mulls banning Russian crude despite Europe being more reluctant against such a move due to the bloc’s reliance on energy imports from the country such as gas.
Last week, experts warned commodity prices are set to post their biggest weekly rise in 50 years as the war in Ukraine continues to threaten the global economy. Analysts at ED&F Man Capital Markets said: “We are seeing the commodity melt-up continue with no sign of a let-up.”