Britain will help EU and West away from Russian gas – Boris sets out new energy plan

Boris Johnson

Mr Johnson set out his aim in a question and answer with Daily Express readers (Image: Getty/Jack Taylor )

The Prime Minister said sanctions are working but the only way to have “real lasting pressure” on Vladimir Putin is by turning to other nations for energy supplies. He said there are huge reserves around the world that mean “we do not have to be beholden to Putin in the way that we are”. The UK wants to bring together nations to find other gas sources.

Mr Johnson set out his aim in a question and answer with Daily Express readers he had invited to quiz him on any topic they wanted.

Over half an hour in the Downing Street study, which was used by Margaret Thatcher as her main office, he gave the panel an update on the war in Ukraine and how Britain was responding.

He said Western sanctions were having a bigger impact than hoped for and the UK is continuing to supply weapons to Ukraine.

The topic was at the forefront of minds of the five readers invited to Downing Street and Mr indicated that he was disappointed Pakistan, India and China abstained in a vote condemning Russia at the United Nations last week.

But he said the “opinion of the world is clear” on the invasion after 141 of the assembly’s 193 members passed the motion in a rare emergency session called by the UN Security Council.

Mr Johnson was questioned by a panel of five Express readers as they sat at the study’s distinctive round elm table.

It dates back to a time when Russia operated within international norms and was part of the G8 group of leading nations.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron commissioned the table to provide an intimate atmosphere during discussions with counterparts when the G8 summit was held in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland in 2013 and later had it moved to No 10.

Jair Bolsonaro

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (Image: Getty/SERGIO LIMA )

Photographs from the time show Mr Cameron flanked by the US president Barack Obama on one side and Putin on the other.

Russia was booted out of the group the following year after the annexation of Crimea and it is now called the G7.

After the discussion with Express readers, Mr Johnson headed off to hold telephone talks with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as he continued his diplomatic push for support from all nations against Russia’s warmongering.

The Prime Minister told his counterpart that Brazil was a vital ally in the Second World War, and “its voice was again crucial at this time of crisis”.

He is hosting talks in London over the next few days with a series of international leaders, including Canada’s Justin Trudeau to keep the pressure on the Kremlin.

But as well as the invasion of Ukraine, our readers were also keen to question the Prime Minister on a range of other issues, such as crime, the economy and health.

In a frank session, he was also asked directly about the allegations of lockdown rule breaking that are still hanging over Downing Street as the Metropolitan Police investigation continues.

The Prime Minister has completed a legal questionnaire and submitted it to Scotland Yard More than 50 members of staff have also been asked to respond.

Many Conservative MPs said they would wait until the police probe is completed before deciding if they will submit a letter of no confidence in the PM.

What we need to do is help wean the world off Russian gas

Mr Johnson was asked how he would restore trust in his leadership after the furore.

He told the panel the allegations had been difficult to handle because they came out in “endless dribs and drabs” and there were lots of things he was “completely unaware” of.

But he said the government had been focused on delivering the people’s priorities, including fighting covid.

The Prime Minister hailed the Daily Express for delivering Brexit, which gave the UK the freedom to push ahead with its own speedy vaccine programme and booster roll out.

He said voters hate it when politicians fail to address their big concerns such as soaring inflation and living costs and insisted dealing with it is one of his main priorities.

Here are some of the questions posed by Daily Express readers and the Prime Minister’s responses in day one of a two part special:

Warren Browning, 75, from Rugby, Warwickshire, retired after a long career working as a credit controller and other jobs in finance.

He quizzed the Prime Minister about the West’s dependence on Russian gas.

Mr Browning said: “Is there any way that Nato and the European Union can actually give some sort of help to countries such as Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia, Poland, to take up the slack when they depend so much (on Russian gas), in the case of Finland it’s 94 per cent and the others are down to 70 per cent?

Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister hailed the Daily Express for delivering Brexit (Image: Getty/BEN STANSALL)

The Prime Minister replied:

“So this is the crucial thing. I said earlier that the sanctions were starting to work but in the end you can’t hope to have real lasting pressure on Putin if you’re dependent on his gas. “And I won’t comment on what Imran Khan has done except to say that, actually, Pakistan was in a small minority of countries that didn’t support the motion last night in the UN – 141 votes to five in the UN and Pakistan, India, China and others could perhaps have voted with the rest, but didn’t, and there were a few others that abstained.

“But the number of countries that voted with Russia was absolutely tiny so the opinion of the world is clear.

“What we need to do is help wean the world off Russian gas and the UK wants to bring countries together so that they stop being so dependent.

“The Americans are offering huge quantities, the Canadians have a lot, the Qataris, the Saudis.

“What we need to do is bring together a coalition of the hydrocarbon producing countries to help in this tough … Algeria is another very good example.

“There are huge reserves around the world. We do not have to be beholden to Putin in the way that we are.

“You mention the Baltics, and Finland, those countries, and you’re right, Germany and Italy, there are still heavy dependencies.

“But everybody’s capable of moving away from dependence on hydrocarbons at all.

“So what we can do is help them in the short term by trying to find alternative supplies, but move as the UK has done towards other solutions.

“We have a huge amount of that comes from renewables and we’re working with the Baltics and other countries to increase their renewable capacity.

“We also think that here in the UK, we’re going to do a lot more on nuclear. I think it was crazy that under the Labour government allowed our nuclear generation to fall away.

“I think we’ve got to recognise that hydrocarbons in the interim are going to be part of the solution.

“And if it comes to metallurgical coal, for instance, to fire out our steel plants, why would you buy that in from Australia when you can get it from the UK?

“So I just think we need to have a big big mix of solutions but we need to help the world to go beyond Putin’s gas.”

Gail Brown, 75, of Kidderminster, is a retired magistrate, dentist and science teacher. The life-long Conservative voter and canvasser questioned the Prime Minister on allegations of lockdown parties in Downing Street.

She praised Mr Johnson’s “professional” handling of the Ukraine crisis and the “excellent vaccine rollout” but said her faith had been dented by the allegations.

“Integrity is important,” she said. “So how are you going to regain our trust and particularly the trust of the people who vote for you so that when I knock on somebody’s door to canvass at the next election, they will not shut the door in my face?”

Boris Johnson

The thing people don’t like most is a sense that we are not focusing on what matters said Mr Johnson (Image: Getty/Dan Kitwood)

The Prime Minister replied:

“I’m not going to pretend that everything went in the way I would want here or across government and nor am I going to pretend that it was brilliantly handled by us when all that stuff started to come out.

“The trouble was, it came out in endless dribs and drabs and lots of stuff that I was completely unaware of kept emerging. And it was a difficult one to handle.

“But all I can say is we’ve got to let the current inquiries continue, reach their conclusion.

“But in the meantime I don’t think there’s anything more I can say on that pending the outcome of the inquiries that will really help, except to get on with delivering what the people want us to do.

“I think what will help is a sense that no matter what brickbats and protests are hurled at the government, it just does get on with the people’s priorities.

“So, you know, in that difficult time we did get on with delivering the fastest booster rollout in Europe throughout those weeks.

“That was driven by number 10 completely. We doubled the speed of it. And that did have a considerable benefit to our ability to to fight the pandemic.

“All I’m trying to say to you is for all the things that people may worry about, the thing they don’t like most is a sense that the government is not focusing on what matters.

Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister addressing Daily Express readers (Image: Jonathan Buckmaster)

“My experience of politics, the golden rule of politics is, people don’t like it when politicians seem to be focused on themselves or their issues, rather than on the issues of the electorate.

“So when you’re on the doorstep, I think the more people could feel that we’re talking about them and what matters to them

“So what matters to us, to me really, is the cost of living for the people of this country. What are we doing to fix our long term energy needs? Do we have a plan for that given what’s happening in Ukraine, given the post covid inflationary spikes?

“Do we have a plan to help people with the cost of living by having a long term plan for energy spikes? Well, we do and I’ll be honest with you, I think that by showing people that we’re delivering on that, delivering on helping to deal with the problems in world politics, trying to bring the world together to cope with Putin, I think that that is what people are going to want us to focus on.

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“And I know that’s probably not much of an answer to why … I think it is a good answer.

“But what I would say is don’t judge the government by … whatever the rights and wrongs of that you’ve got to wait for the process to be complete.

“I have my views, there’s plenty I could say. But in the meantime, look at what they are actually delivering and they delivered the fastest booster roll out and the fastest vaccine rollout virtually anywhere in the world, but certainly the fastest in Europe.

“That was thanks to Brexit, and that was thanks to Daily Express readers.”

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