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UK holds talks with Qatar over ‘long-term gas supply deal’ amid energy crisis, report says

Source suggests Middle Eastern country could become ‘supplier of last resort’ for UK

Conrad Duncan
Friday 05 November 2021 23:32 GMT
Related video: Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng defended the government’s handling of the energy crisis in October

The British government has approached Qatar to ask if the Gulf state could become a “supplier of last resort” amid gas shortages in Europe which have led to record prices, according to a report.

The Financial Times (FT) reported on Friday that ministers had held talks with the country, which is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, to ensure a stable source of gas if global supplies become tight.

It added that Qatar had re-routed four large tankers to the UK over the past two weeks, with the decision reportedly taking place after Boris Johnson asked Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani for help.

“The Qataris have indicated a willingness to agree longer-term supply deals to deliver…  gas to the UK in an emergency scenario – a sort of ‘supplier of last resort’ arrangement,” a UK government insider told the newspaper.

However, Downing Street insisted that the UK had not “requested or secured any additional shipments from the Qatari government” as it insisted that the energy supply remained secure for the winter.

Energy prices have soared in recent months due to a worldwide gas supply shortage, caused in part by a surge in demand and Russia restricting gas exports to western Europe, which has hit suppliers.

The FT also reported that foreign secretary, Liz Truss, and business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, had been involved in talks with Qatari leaders this month to discuss how to improve the UK’s energy security.

A government spokesperson told the newspaper that ministers held “regular discussions” with “key energy partners around the world” ahead of the winter.

In October, the head of Scottish Power warned that at least another 20 UK suppliers were likely to go bust in the next month as the crisis presented a “real risk” that just five or six energy companies could survive.

On Wednesday, CNG Energy became the latest UK energy supplier to collapse, bringing the total number of company failures since the start of September to 19.

Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator, has said that it will consider changes to the price cap on bills in a bid to prevent more suppliers going out of business.

“The unprecedented rise in energy prices this year has changed the perception of risk and uncertainty in this market,” the regulator said last week.

“In order to protect the interests of consumers, we must ensure that the regulatory frameworks, including the price cap, fully reflect the costs, risks and uncertainties facing the supply companies we regulate.”

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