Countries across Europe are concerned as the price of natural gases looks set to soar. Meteorologists have warned that the UK is facing a greater risk of cold weather this winter, meaning demand for gas could rise. This will result in a particularly tough winter for families already struggling with bills as experts fear gas shortages and market shocks. The EU is also concerned about what could happen this winter, as countries in the bloc brace for their own gas issues.
The New York Times reported this week that the spike in natural gas prices has also led to an increase in energy and electricity bills, and that consumers in Europe are already being affected.
For example, Spanish households are paying roughly 40 percent more than what they paid for electricity a year ago.
Maria Campuzano of the Alliance against Energy Poverty said: “The electricity price hike has created a lot of indignation, and this is of course moving onto the streets.”
Marco Alvera, chief executive of Snam, a large gas company in Milan, also fears that higher demand in winter could lead to issues in Italy.
He added: “If it is cold, then we’re in trouble.”
Citing record natural gas prices, Ofgem recently gave utilities a green light to increase the ceiling on energy bills for millions of households in the UK.
The standard rates can now rise by about 12 percent, to £1,277.
The UK is also in the midst of a fuel crisis as a shortage of HGV drivers means fuel cannot be delivered to petrol pumps at the speed required to meet demand.
Prominent figures in Europe have been very explicit in their diagnosis of the problem in the UK, saying it is a result of Brexit.
A Dutch trade union official said on Monday that the EU is unlikely to send HGV drivers to Britain to help ease the crisis.
Edwin Atema, from the Federation of Netherlands Trade Unions, said: “The EU workers we speak to will not go to the UK for a short-term visa to help the UK out of the s*** they created themselves.”
Olaf Scholz, leader of the Social Democratic Party which has just narrowly won the election in Germany, also said the UK should accept the consequences of Brexit.
He said: “We can’t send German truckers to UK to help solve the crisis.
“We worked very hard to convince the British not to leave the union. Now they decided different and I hope they will manage the problems coming from that.”
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Meanwhile, French Europe Minister Clement Beaune was even more scathing on the situation in the UK.
The ally of Emmanuel Macron added: “Every day, we see the intellectual fraud that was Brexit.”
The Government has argued, however, that Covid and soaring energy prices around the world have been contributors to the ongoing fuel crisis.
The shortage is so bad that the army have been put on standby in case they are needed to help ease fuel supply problems.
The UK is estimated to be short of more than 100,000 lorry drivers – causing problems for a range of industries, including food suppliers and supermarkets, in recent months.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the move to place the Army on standby was a “sensible, precautionary step”.
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He added: “If required, the deployment of military personnel will provide the supply chain with additional capacity as a temporary measure, to help ease pressures caused by spikes in localised demand for fuel.”
While the EU is also being impacted by a similar problem, its shops and petrol pumps are still being supplied and long queues have not yet hit its stations.
Europe, however, is also short of HGV drivers, and has been since before the pandemic.
In 2019, 24 percent of trucker positions were unfilled in the UK, while 22 percent were unfilled in Poland, according to the International Road Transport Organisation.
In the Czech Republic, 21 percent were unfilled, while in Spain, the same figure stood at 20 percent.