Johnson warns use of oil and gas from Russia cannot be stopped overnight

British prime minister joins other European leaders in pushing back against US pressure to impose oil embargo on Russia

Boris Johnson has warned that the use of oil and gas from Russia cannot be stopped overnight, joining other European leaders in pushing back against pressure from Washington to impose an oil embargo.

Speaking in Downing Street during a joint press conference with the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and Canada's Justin Trudeau, Mr Johnson said Britain would have to increase its own self-reliance by using more of its own oil and gas.

“You can’t simply close down use of oil and gas overnight even from Russia, that’s not something that every country around the world can do. We can go fast in the UK, other countries can go fast, but there are different dependencies. What we need to do is make sure that we’re all moving in the same direction, we all share the same assumptions and that we accelerate that move, and I think that is what you’re going to see,” he said.

“Actually I see no inconsistency by the way in moving away from dependency on Russian hydrocarbons to moving away from dependency on hydrocarbons altogether. You can see how this will encourage the world to go for green solutions wherever possible, but clearly there is going to be a transitional period, we’re going to have to look for supply, we’re going to have to look for alternative.”

US secretary of state Anthony Blinken said on Sunday that Washington was working with European allies to look into the possibility of banning Russian oil imports. However, Mr Rutte warned that an immediate embargo would have enormous consequences for European businesses and supply chains, and could have a negative impact on Ukraine.

“We have to make sure to deleverage our dependency on Russian gas, on Russian oil, while acknowledging at the moment that the dependency is, to a certain extent, still there,” he said.

Visas

Mr Johnson rejected criticism of Britain’s sluggish acceptance of Ukrainian refugees, dismissing reports that only 50 had been granted visas.

Home secretary Priti Patel said on Sunday that Britain was opening a new humanitarian route that would mean "anyone without ties to the UK fleeing the conflict in Ukraine will have a right to come to this nation".

Downing Street said on Monday there was no new route for refugees, and in the House of Commons later Ms Patel rowed back on her claim, citing security concerns as the reason Britain is not following the lead of other European countries in welcoming refugees with few bureaucratic hurdles.

“It is wrong to say that we are just turning people back; we are absolutely not. We are supporting those who have been coming to Calais. It is also important that we do not create choke points in Calais but encourage a smooth flow of people,” she said.

Ms Patel was speaking during a debate on a new bill that aims to make it easier for British authorities to freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs close to the Kremlin.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is London Editor of The Irish Times

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