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The energy crisis will not lead to the “lights going out” this winter, the business secretary has said.
Kwasi Kwarteng insisted the country had sufficient capacity to meet customer demand, branding thoughts to the contrary as “alarmist, unhelpful and completely misguided”.
“There is absolutely no question of the lights going out or people being unable to heat their homes,” he said.
His words come after wholesale gas prices rose by 70 per cent in August, leading to the collapse of four energy firms in recent days.
Elsewhere, Boris Johnson has warned that post-Brexit trade complications with Northern Ireland “can’t go on forever”, as his government considers whether to override parts of its agreement with the EU.
Speaking from New York on Monday, the prime minister said he was not trying to “stoke” the situation up for “political purposes”, insisting he just wanted “common sense” to prevail.
Critics, however, suggest that his government signed up to an agreement it knew would cause trade friction between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
‘No question of lights going out’ during energy crisis, Kwarteng insists
Post-Brexit trade issues with Northern Ireland ‘can’t go on forever’, says PM
Supply chain issues could last months, PM admits
France cancels defence summit with UK in protest at Aukus submarine deal
Johnson tries to soothe tensions with France
Climate campaigners hurting their own cause with motorway blockades, says PM
No plan to retaliate against French comments, says No 10
20:02 , Tom Batchelor
No 10 rejected accusations that France had been snubbed by the prime minister in New York amid an ongoing row about the UK’s defence partnership with the US and Australia.
The PM official spokesman, asked by reporters in the US whether Boris Johnson was “rubbing Macron’s nose in it” by meeting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and President Joe Biden while in the States for a United Nations gathering, said: “No. I’d point you back to what the prime minister said on the plane.
“He was effusive about our relationship with the French and the closeness of that relationship is demonstrated every day, be it through our existing Lancaster House agreement, the joint work through Nato or elsewhere.”
Asked whether the UK would “retaliate” to comments made by French ministers about the Aukus deal, the spokesman replied: “I’m not aware of any plans like that.
“We’ll seek to work constructively with our French counterparts.”
‘Ambitious’ Biden announcement would make ‘big difference’ says Sharma
19:25 , Tom Batchelor
Cop26 President Alok Sharma said an “ambitious” announcement from Joe Biden would make a “big difference in terms of getting us over the line” on a climate financing pledge.
He told reporters in New York: “Let’s just see what the announcement is but if it is an ambitious announcement that’s obviously going to help spur others on as well and get them to come forward.
“Certainly a good announcement from the US will make a big difference in terms of getting us over the line.”
Climate campaigners hurting their own cause with motorway blockades, says Boris Johnson
18:45 , Tom Batchelor
Boris Johnson has accused global warming campaigners of damaging their own cause by disrupting daily life with stunts like repeatedly blocking motorways.
Mr Johnson said that protesters from Insulate Britain who targeted M25junctions in Kent, Surrey, Essex and Hertfordshire had detracted from the climate emergency message at a time when it is increasingly being taken on board by the British people.
He added that the government was right to take on new powers to move protesters when they threaten critical infrastructure like roads and railways or take direct action which risks doing “serious economic damage”.
Here is the full story:
UK and France are ‘joined at the hip’, says defence secretary
18:18 , Tom Batchelor
The Defence Secretary claimed the UK and France are “joined at the hip” as he insisted there was “no sneakiness behind the back” over a lucrative submarines contract.
Ben Wallace sought to play down suggestions of a rift between the two nations, despite his French counterpart Florence Parly postponing a meeting with him as the international fallout from the contract row continues.
He told MPs: “The United States and France are our closest allies.
“The United States is the cornerstone of Nato by far outspending and out-contributing than any other European nation on that security.
“It has been the guarantor of European security for decades and we should not forget that.
“When it comes towards France, I have an extremely close relationship with my French counterpart, I have met her only a month or two ago, I had dinner with her in Paris even months before that.
“We speak regularly.
“Britain and France, on many issues, are joined at the hip, complex weapons, counter-terrorism, both west and east Africa issues, and indeed more recently in places like Iraq and Syria.”
Johnson ‘delighted’ to meet Brazil’s Bolsonaro
18:04 , Tom Batchelor
Boris Johnson has said he was “delighted” to meet Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro during his visit to New York.
Joined by new foreign secretary, Liz Truss, at the British Consulate General’s residence, the PM said he had promised to come to Brazil before the “bummer” of Covid-19, adding: “But we’re working together on the vaccines.
“AstraZeneca it’s a great vaccine. I have AstraZeneca.”
As the press were ushered out of the room, Mr Johnson told them: “Thanks everybody, get AstraZeneca vaccines.”
He turned to Mr Bolsonaro and said: “I’ve had it twice.”
Mr Bolsonaro pointed at himself and wagged his finger, “not yet”, he said through an interpreter, before laughing.
They discussed their own fights against coronavirus infections, before Mr Bolsonaro bragged he had developed “excellent” immunity to the disease.
Government ‘moving away from instant changes’ to red list
17:49 , Tom Batchelor
Grant Shapps told MPs that “instant changes” to the travel red list of countries may not be needed for the future.
The transport secretary said: “On the red list, of course I have to repeat the general warning that we have always had to live with with coronavirus, which is that one never knows what is going to happen with coronavirus.
“But I do think that 18 months in, we are in a world where we know that vaccination makes a very sustained difference and I do very much hope that we have moved away from a world in which instant changes are required.”
PM ‘not counting our chickens’ over global climate pledges
17:36 , Tom Batchelor
Boris Johnson said an increased financial commitment to tackling climate change from the US would make a “huge difference”.
He told reporters in New York: “We have been here before, we have all heard lots of pledges, lots of positive noises, let’s see where we get to.
“We are not counting our chickens.”
Mr Johnson has previously claimed there is only a “six out of 10” chance of hitting the target before the UK hosts the Cop26 climate summit in November.
But a change in the US commitment would “send a massively powerful signal to the world”, he said.
UK’s relationship with France 'incredibly important’
17:28 , Tom Batchelor
Boris Johnson has again insisted the UK’s relationship with France was “incredibly important” as he looked to talk up cross-Channel relations amid a row over a new US, British and Australian defence pact.
The PM, speaking at a press conference in New York where he is attending the United Nations general assembly, said: “Our relationship with France is incredibly important, it is historic, it goes back a long, long time.
“It is founded on shared values, shared belief in democracy, we work together around the world.
“The UK and France are shoulder-to-shoulder in the Sahel fighting terrorism, we are shoulder to shoulder in the Baltic states in Nato’s largest current mission.
“And it is an extraordinary fact: there is one other country in the world with whom we share a programme to do simulated nuclear testing. Which country is that? It is France.”
Shapps gives update on travel plan
17:20 , Tom Batchelor
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, after making the US travel announcement, told MPs: “We’ll now expand the policy to an array of other countries including Canada and Japan from October 4 for those who can demonstrate their fully vaccinated status.
“That will bring the number of countries and territories in to scope to 50.
“The UK will now set out standards that it expects other countries to meet in terms of certification so that their citizens can benefit from this change.
“We’ll happily work with anyone that applies and can meet these standards.
“And I can tell the House today that we’re in the final stages of doing this with our friends in the United Arab Emirates, because recovery is the best way to support the aviation sector.
“As one of the world’s most-vaccinated countries we can now use our advantage to further liberalise travel while protecting public health.”
PM hails opening up of US travel
17:13 , Tom Batchelor
Speaking at a press conference in New York, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the US announcement on easing travel restrictions happened “faster than we expected”.
He said: “They will be able to get there by Thanksgiving. That’s a great thing.
“I thank everybody in the US-UK joint working group who have been hard at it.
“And I thank the president for the progress that we’ve been able to make.
“Yes we have done it faster than we expected but that’s thanks to the hard work of our teams.”
Here are the details of the new travel arrangements:
Johnson blames economic recovery for surging gas demand
17:06 , Tom Batchelor
Boris Johnson has said the business model of energy firms had been “badly affected” by the turbulence in the market.
“When the wholesale price massively increases, spikes, in this way and they have loads of customers on fixed retail prices then it’s very difficult,” he told reporters in New York.
“We are working very hard to find a way through, also to keep a steady supply of gas.”
Mr Johnson said the economic recovery was like “the big thaw” after a frost had frozen the pipes.
“That’s when you have the problems and the leaks and all the difficulties, that’s really what’s happening to the global economy,” he said.
“It’s thawing very rapidly and you are seeing problems in the supply chains, very strong demand for gas around the world is producing this phenomenon but we’re going to fix it.”
Boris Johnson discusses 'short-term' energy crisis on arrival in New York
17:05 , Tom Batchelor
Boris Johnson addressed the sharp increase in gas prices as he arrived for a diplomatic visit to New York, saying it was a temporary issue caused by the world economy “waking up” after the pandemic.
“There are a lot of short-term problems, not just in our country in the UK, but around the world, caused by gas supplies,” the prime minister said. “We have got to try and fix it as fast as we can.”
Watch the video here:
Government under pressure to scrap planned UC cut
16:46 , Tom Batchelor
The government is under renewed pressure to reconsider an imminent cut to Universal Credit payments with campaigners warning that the impact of energy price hikes on top will be devastating.
Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “This is a hugely unsettling time for millions of energy customers. It’s particularly worrying for many on the lowest incomes who’ll be facing the double whammy of rising fuel bills and a benefits cut.
“With choppy waters ahead, the single best thing the government can do is keep its lifeline of £20-a-week to Universal Credit.”
Some Afghans who helped UK troops during war will be left behind, defence minister admits
16:16 , Tom Batchelor
Not everybody who helped the British armed forces in Afghanistan will be repaid by being allowed to flee to the UK, ministers have admitted.
In a parliamentary exchange Defence minister James Heappey told MPs it was “not possible” for everyone MPs considered to be at risk to be granted assistance under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap).
Here is the story:
‘No question of lights going out’ during energy crisis, Kwarteng insists
15:58 , Rory Sullivan
There will be “no question of the lights going out” this winter, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has insisted.
Amid fears of the repercussions of the energy crisis, the minister told MPs: “We have sufficient capacity, and more than sufficient capacity, to meet demand and we do not expect supply emergencies to occur this winter.
“There is absolutely no question of the lights going out or people being unable to heat their homes. There will be no three-day working weeks or a throwback to the 1970s. Such thinking is alarmist, unhelpful and completely misguided.”
Rebel amendment on universal credit cut rejected
15:40 , Rory Sullivan
The speaker has rejected a rebel Tory amendment calling for a £20-a-week uplift to universal credit to be maintained, The Independent understands.
The MPs wanted to debate the issue on Monday during discussions on the annual uprating of pensions.
Ashley Cowburn reports:
PM rebukes world leaders over climate crisis
15:25 , Rory Sullivan
Boris Johnson has rebuked other world leaders over their climate change record.
Co-chairing a discussion at the UN General Assembly, the prime minister said: “It is the biggest economies in the world that are causing the problem, while the smallest suffer the worst consequences.
“And while progress is being made all over the world, the gulf between what has been promised, what is actually being delivered, and what needs to happen... it remains vast.
“Too many major economies - some represented here today, some absent - are lagging too far behind.”
Mr Johnson is expected to put pressure on the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro - a climate change sceptic - during a meeting later on Monday.
Sinn Fein criticises DUP over protocol threat
15:05 , Rory Sullivan
Sinn Fein has criticised the DUP for threatening to withdraw ministers from the executive unless Westminister acts over the Northern Ireland protocol.
Deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill called the move “reckless” and “irresponsible”, adding that the pandemic and the health service is currently the population’s top priority.
“It’s about ensuring that we prioritise the one billion in peace funding that we can have to distribute across communities here,” she said.
“So I think that it is totally irresponsible and reckless given the high stakes that are involved that the DUP is threatening to pull down the institutions whenever all the rest of the executive parties are here to do business and actually serve the public.”
Watch House of Commons proceedings live
14:48 , Rory Sullivan
Climate campaigners damaging their own cause, claims PM
14:45 , Rory Sullivan
Boris Johnson has claimed environmental activists damage their own cause by repeatedly blocking motorways and other roads.
The prime minister spoke as 41 people were arrested in the latest Insulate Britain protests on Monday morning, which affected motorways and other major transport links.
He said: “I don’t think these people do any favours to their cause.
“I think what they do is detract from a very important moral mission that is widely shared by the people of this country.”
Ministers attempt to reassure public over winter gas supply and price cap
14:23 , Rory Sullivan
The government has tried to reassure the public about winter gas supply, as it insisted energy price cap would remain in force.
Speaking of the cap, a No 10 spokesperson said: “It’s in place to protect people’s energy bills.
“That’s what it does, that’s what it has done, and as I say, it’ll continue to do so.”
Farmers may have to slaughter pigs due to lack of feed, expert warns
14:03 , Rory Sullivan
Farmers might have to kill their own animals due to a shortage of space and feed, the chairman of the National Pig Association (NPA) has warned.
Rob Mutimer told the PA news agency: “If the situation doesn’t change, it’s going to spiral completely out of control.
“And the only end game there is we as farmers are going to end up slaughtering our livestock - not for the food chain but to put them into rendering, to dispose of carcasses like what happened in foot and mouth.
“And that’s a terrible situation to be in.”
France ‘remains a close ally’, No 10 insists
13:45 , Rory Sullivan
France is still “a close ally and friend” of the UK despite the recent diplomatic fallout, No 10 has insisted.
Tensions between the countries grew after Australia ditched a submarine deal with France in favour of an agreement with the US and the UK.
The British governmeny has insisted the Aukus deal was “in no way intended to be exclusionary”.
Speaking on Monday, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “France remains a close ally and friend of the UK, and we are proud of the relationship we have with France.
“We will continue to work closely with them. We work extremely closely in many areas - Mali being a good example, on counter-terrorism operations and in many other areas, and that work will obviously continue.”
Post-Brexit trade issues with Northern Ireland ‘can’t go on forever’, says PM
13:23 , Rory Sullivan
The prime minister has said that post-Brexit trade complications with Northern Ireland “can’t go on forever”.
Speaking from New York, Boris Johnson said: “I hope everybody knows this isn’t something that the UK government is trying to stoke up for our own political purposes.
“On the contrary, we want to fix this, we want common sense. We want no barriers in the UK for trading in our country and it’s crazy at the moment that we’ve got the protocol being enforced or being used in the way that it is.”
Critics, however, suggest that his government knew full well that the Brexit agreement it signed would lead to trade friction between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Mr Johnson’s latest comments on Brexit come the day before he meets US president Joe Biden, who has been clear that the British government should do nothing to imperil peace in Northern Ireland.
13:05 , Liam James
Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, will update the House of Commons on the energy crisis around 3.30pm.
Universal Credit cut will go ahead despite rising energy bills
12:56 , Liam James
The government is not considering a delay to the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit despite the additional cost households will bear from rising energy bills.
Downing Street said the “uplift to Universal Credit was always temporary” and was designed to “help claimants through the economic shock and the toughest period of the pandemic”.
The end of the uplift is set for 6 October.
Kwarteng ‘considering’ next step for UK’s biggest CO2 supplier
12:41 , Liam James
Downing Street was asked if there was a contingency plan to help CF Industries, the UK's biggest supplier of CO2, which recently closed two large fertiliser plants in Teesside and Cheshire — which produce CO2 as a byproduct.
A spokesman for the prime minister said: "We have a highly diverse source of supplies but, as I say, Kwasi Kwarteng has spoken to the company involved over the weekend and will consider any contingency plans as appropriate."
Downing Street suggests energy price cap here to stay
12:26 , Liam James
No 10 said the government was not thought to be considering an end to the energy price cap.
Alok Sharma yesterday suggested the cap could be subject to change if gas prices were to continue rising.
A spokesman for the prime minister today said: “The price cap remains in place, as I say, to protect consumers from sudden increases in global gas prices and it will save them money this winter.”
Pushed on whether the cap could change between October and the next review date in April 2022, he added: “I'm not aware of any proposed change to the price cap.”
Labour accuses government of ‘fundamental failure’ amid energy crisis
12:00 , Rory Sullivan
Labour has hit out at the government over the energy crisis, accusing it of “fundamental failure”.
Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, said: “A basic duty of government is to ensure secure, affordable energy supplies for businesses and consumers. It is a fundamental failure of long-term government planning over the last decade that we are so exposed and vulnerable as a country and it is families and businesses that are paying the price.
“The government must take all necessary steps to ensure stability for customers and do everything in its powers to mitigate the effects of this crisis on businesses and consumers.”
‘Unconscionable’ that 100 million vaccines could be thrown away by rich countries, says Brown
11:44 , Rory Sullivan
Former prime minister Gordon Brown has hit out at vaccine wastage in wealthy countries, as poorer nations continue to struggle to obtain enough doses for their populations.
He sent a recent study, which suggests 100 million doses will be wasted by rich nations by Christmas, to US president Joe Biden ahead of a jabs summit on Wednesday.
“It is unthinkable and unconscionable that 100 million vaccines will have to be thrown away from the stockpiles of the rich countries, whilst the populations of the world’s poorest countries will pay for our vaccine waste in lives lost,” Mr Brown said.
Starmer should welcome Corbyn back, says McDonnell
11:23 , Rory Sullivan
Keir Starmer should welcome former leader Jeremy Corbyn back to the Labour Party, the leading left winger John McDonnell has said.
“He doesn’t have to endorse everything Jeremy believes in or says or has said,” Mr McDonnell told The Independent. “He just has to demonstrate that actually Jeremy is a valuable member of our party like everybody else, and use his talents. Jeremy could mobilise for Keir Starmer.”
The former shadow chancellor also warned that the upcoming Labour conference could be the current leader’s last chance to unite his party.
Here’s Andrew Woodcock’s exclusive:
Outlook is ‘bleak’, warns energy firm boss
11:00 , Rory Sullivan
The chief executive of a small energy firm has said the outlook for his company is “bleak” due to rising gas prices.
This comes as some analysts estimated that the UK could only be left with 10 energy companies as a result of the current crisis.
Peter McGirr, who runs the small energy firm Green, told the BBC on Monday: “It is not that I have a bad business model or I have a bad business.
“We just don’t have as deep pockets to keep going through this crisis. I think that all suppliers are feeling the pinch of this but some of them just have a lot deeper pockets to try and ride out the storm.”
“I feel that without any support mechanism being put in place by government, it’s unlikely we will see the winter through.”
Fix ‘broken’ Brexit trade deal, MPs tell Johnson
10:38 , Rory Sullivan
A group of cross-party MPs has warned Boris Johnson to fix his “broken” Brexit trade deal, citing evidence that it is unpopular with the public.
Polling by the UK Trade and Business Commission found that 53 per cent of people think the agreement has created more problems than it has solved.
Issues include the “barriers” faced by businesses losing out to international competitors and the risk of “irrevocable damage” to UK farming.
“The evidence we’ve heard from dozens of experts and businesses confirms that this deal is broken and will continue to create problems in our supply chain and cost jobs and money in the UK,” the Labour MP Hilary Benn said.
Britain’s sixth-largest energy company seeks bailout
10:14 , Rory Sullivan
Bulb, the UK’s sixth-largest energy company, is seeking a bailout amid a dramatic surge in wholesale gas prices.
The startup, which provides electricity and gas to some 1.7 million customers, is reportedly working to secure new avenues of funding.
A Bulb spokesperson said: “From time to time we explore various opportunities to fund our business plans and further our mission to lower bills and lower CO2.
“Like everyone in the industry, we’re monitoring wholesale prices and their impact on our business.”
Daniel Keane has the details:
PM to ask Biden to reopen travel from UK
09:50 , Rory Sullivan
Boris Johnson will ask Joe Biden to reopen travel from the UK to the US, a British minister has confirmed.
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was safe for America to grant entry to British travellers.
“Well, obviously, international travel is incredibly important for the UK, we want to get to a situation where Brits are able to travel to one of our closest partners in the world, and the prime minister will be making it very, very clear that travel to and from the UK is safe,” he said.
“It’s important to us, and as strong international partners that’s what we should be looking to do.”
PM tries to soothe tensions with France
09:30 , Rory Sullivan
Boris Johnson has spoken of Britain’s “ineradicable” love for France in a bid to soothe tensions with Paris, following the backlash caused by the Aukus nuclear submarine partnership between Australia, the US and the UK.
As a result of this agreement, France lost its 56bn euro deal to provide Australia with 12 diesel-electric submarines.
French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the move a “stab in the back”, while Emmanuel Macron’s administration described the UK as a “vassal” state of the US.
09:10 , Rory Sullivan
In our daily politics round-up, Jon Stone takes a closer look at Boris Johnson’s climate diplomacy and his chances of success:
Only six in 10 chance of success at Cop26, says Johnson
08:52 , Rory Sullivan
Boris Johnson has said there is only a “six out of 10” chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.
Speaking from New York, he warned bluntly that some major economies “need to do much more” if the talks are to prove a success.
“It’s going to be tough, but people need to understand that this is crucial for the world,” he added.
Our political editor Andrew Woodcock reports:
Truss to meet Iranian foreign minister over detained UK nationals
08:37 , Rory Sullivan
The new foreign secretary Liz Truss will demand that Iran releases detained UK nationals - including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe - during a meeting with her Iranian counterpart on Monday.
She will hold talks with Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Ms Truss said: “I will be asking Iran to ensure the immediate and permanent release of all arbitrarily detained British nationals in Iran, and to begin working with us to mend our fractured relations.
“The UK, US and our international partners are fully committed to a nuclear deal, but every day that Iran continues to delay talks whilst escalating its own nuclear programme means there is less space for diplomacy.”
France cancels defence summit with UK in protest
08:20 , Rory Sullivan
France has cancelled a summit with British defence secretary Ben Wallace in protest at the Aukus submarine deal, reports have suggested.
The move comes in response to Australia’s decision to cancel a submarine deal with France in favour of the new Aukus security partnership with the US and Britain.
Here’s Peter Stubley with more details:
Supply chain issues could last months, PM admits
08:06 , Rory Sullivan
Boris Johnson has not ruled out the possibility that the energy crisis could last for months.
Its knock-on effects include a carbon dioxide shortage threatening meat production and the distribution of frozen food.
Although the prime minister, who is currently in the US to meet Joe Biden, said the crisis would be “temporary”, he was unwilling to give an assurance that it would not last for months.
Kwarteng to hold emergency energy talks
07:53 , Rory Sullivan
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng will meet energy industry leaders on Monday amid fears about rising gas prices.
This comes after wholesale costs rose by 70 per cent in August, exacerbating a situation that has worsened significantly since January.
The minister did not out appointing a “special administrator”, which is seen as a form of temporary nationalisation.
“Our priority is to protect consumers. If a supplier of last resort is not possible, a special administrator would be appointed by Ofgem and the government,” Mr Kwarteng said.
“The objective is to continue supply to customers until the company can be rescued or customers moved to new suppliers.”
07:46 , Rory Sullivan
Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s live UK politics coverage.