I beg to move,
That this House has considered Nord Stream 2.
I am grateful to Mr Speaker for granting me this debate and it is a delight to hold it under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. It might seem intriguing or even peculiar to discuss Nord Stream 2—the construction of a 1,300 km gas pipeline so far away from British shores—in this place, in this House, in this Parliament. I hope over the next few minutes to set out why Nord Stream 2 matters to Europe’s national interests and the strategic interests of the United Kingdom, as well as to our NATO allies and partners in the European Union and in European neighbourhood countries as well.
If it comes on stream, Nord Stream 2 will provide 12% of the EU’s energy demand. On the face of it, that sounds like good news, but it will remove about $1.8 billion of transit fees that currently benefit the Ukrainian economy, from the Progress and Trans-Siberian pipeline systems. I also understand why Germany wants to increase its imports of external energy. Again, on the face of it, that is a very laudable aim. Certainly, as Germany switches off its nuclear power stations and seeks to reduce its coal consumption to meet the EU’s climate change targets, it will invariably find itself more reliant on imports of foreign gas and oil, although I note that those sources of energy are also fossil fuels.
It is also understandable to believe that the Ukrainian objections to Nord Stream 2 are commercial in nature. I am sure that, in large part, that is true; I have already mentioned the transit fees. However, is the $3 billion of transit fees alone enough of an incentive for its objections? I do not believe it is.
Pre-eminent in Ukraine’s objections are the geopolitical levers Russia could—would, in my view—deploy should Nord Stream 2 go ahead. That is not geopolitical guesswork but a fact-based opinion reliant on Russia’s actions over the last decade, during which it has deliberately and systematically misused the supply of energy to Ukraine and other parts of Europe as a stick to beat any state that seeks to be closer to the European Union and NATO.
Notwithstanding that reality, Russia’s current transit dependency on Ukraine affords Kiev some protection from further Russian aggression. Yes, Russia may have its stockpile of nuclear weapons and its exports of oil and gas, but its economy is not in good shape and is no larger than that of Spain, despite Russia’s geographical mass. Moscow is therefore all too aware of its reliance on an uninterrupted revenue stream from its gas exports. At present, Ukraine is an inconvenient transit country to Russia, but it is a transit country. While gas prices are comparatively low, Russia is prepared to moderate and tolerate some aspects of its expansionist foreign policy against Ukraine. I should say moderate. I do not think tolerate is the right word; the Ukrainian population certainly do not tolerate it.
Russia’s reluctant restraint, owing to its reliance on energy transit adversaries, as it would see it, is exactly why it sees the diversification of its gas transit routes as a top foreign policy priority, and as a possible stepping stone to further annexation of Ukrainian territory in the future and to attacking the Ukrainian economy through a major loss of its transit fees. In short, the completion of Nord Stream 2 will allow Russia to pursue an even more aggressive foreign policy towards Ukraine.
The clock is ticking. The agreement between Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz is set to expire on 1 January 2020. Set against the 2019 completion date for the Nord Stream 2 project, the time for German platitudes and, dare I say it, the UK’s apparent unwillingness to come to a firm and fixed view on Nord Stream 2, has to end. Surely the key question for the UK Government is: “Will the development of Nord Stream 2 be in the UK’s medium and long-term strategic interests, and the strategic interests of our friends and allies in the European neighbourhood and in NATO?”
I know that several EU countries have a financial stake in the pipeline—or, at least, companies from countries including France, Austria, the Netherlands, and Germany. I also acknowledge that British interests are at stake. However, there is always a political risk with international and large-scale energy projects. My primary concern is not the potential commercial losses for those private companies, or even the success—or lack of success—of former German Chancellors in their deal making, but the strategic interests of the United Kingdom and our friends and allies. That is why I welcome Chancellor Merkel’s recent comments at the EU-Ukraine summit, at which she said
“it is not just an economic issue…there are also political considerations”.
However, actions, not just words, are now needed. I am happy that the Minister of State is a man of action, not just words, and I look forward to his—as ever—informed and detailed response.
Of course, Ukraine can take its own action. Ukraine should not just be reliant on supportive EU partners for its economic and energy outlook, or debates like this taking place in Parliaments throughout the European Union. Ukraine can and should take action on, for example, replacing its ageing energy infrastructure, deregulating its over-regulated energy market, examining its own pricing structure, liberalising its own internal energy market and further diversifying its energy suppliers.
Another point for our German partners to recognise is that Nord Stream 2 will undermine the EU’s own energy strategy and energy union. Nord Stream 2 is incompatible with the objectives of the EU’s energy policies. Moreover, the pipeline will undermine other EU projects that seek to diversify energy supply markets and locations. Indeed, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, has previously said that Nord Stream 2 goes against the EU’s wider energy security interests. He has called for, at the very minimum, the pipeline to be regulated, and he repeated that at the recent Ukraine-EU summit. He went on to call for the pipeline’s construction to be halted in a joint statement with the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.
The EU could also do more to ensure the diversification of its energy supplies. For example, it could get on with building liquefied natural gas storage areas in Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia and other EU countries. Europe is perhaps also over-reliant on gas from the middle east. Perhaps it is time to look westwards across the Atlantic for a more secure and reliable energy partner.
For all the criticism of President Trump, much of it justified in my view, he has made the US into a net exporter of energy again. He has reduced America’s reliance on foreign energy supplies. That is clearly to its geopolitical and economic advantage, but it is an advantage, and it is one that we need to replicate.
In conclusion, it is clear that there is a lot of unease among our European partners about the Nord Stream 2 project, as the Prime Minister noted in her NATO statement yesterday. At a recent energy conference in Europe—I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—I met a former Prime Minister of Italy, a former President of Poland and the current President of Latvia, all of whom expressed strong views on the need to increase, not decrease Europe’s energy security. In fact, all the Baltic countries oppose Nord Stream 2, as do many other countries, including Slovakia and Slovenia. The Prime Minister of Poland was perhaps the most perceptive when he called Nord Stream 2
“a weapon of hybrid warfare”
“a poison pill for European security”.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. I agree that the issue is not just the geopolitical leverage the pipeline gives to Russia or sorting out Germany’s dependency on Russian gas. If the Foreign Office can take the lead in discouraging Germany from the scheme, it would send a clear message about the enthusiasm of all European countries to decarbonise. With that comes greater energy security through a better mix of renewables and the energy security that brings.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. As someone who sat on the Environmental Audit Committee many years ago, I remember a report we did called, “Keeping the lights on”. He is absolutely right that the whole of Europe, and in many ways Britain, has led the way on renewables. Germany, which prides itself as being green as a nation and being green politically—perhaps more so than some in Chancellor Merkel’s party would want—needs to ensure that it diversifies its energy supplies and its energy mix. That is good for energy security, the environment and reaching our climate change targets.
Bringing things back to the United Kingdom, I am also aware of the comments made by the former Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), in a letter to some colleagues. He apparently wrote that he feels that Nord Stream 2 is divisive and could leave the EU’s supply reliant on “a malign Russian state”. Is that the view of the Minister of State?
Sweden and Finland have both reluctantly given the go-ahead to the project, given that they had little choice but to do so, because, as colleagues will already know, Nord Stream 2 passes through those countries’ economic zone waters rather than their territorial waters. My hon. Friend the Member for Wells (James Heappey) just intervened and what I say next might address some of his question. The pipeline passes through Denmark’s territorial waters and, if the Danish Parliament and/or Government object to the pipeline, they could block the project. The pipeline could then be diverted, but with a significant delay, which might also give Poland a greater say in the project and might help Ukraine in negotiating a new transit agreement with Russia, given the timetables that I set out earlier.
I accept that the Danes are under pressure, both from those opposed to Nord Stream 2 and those in favour of it. In that regard, can the Minister say what representations the UK Government have made to the Danish Government on this issue, and what the precise nature of those discussions was?
I am sure that colleagues will be aware that Denmark’s Prime Minister Rasmussen is the same Danish Prime Minister who gave the go-ahead for the Nord Stream 1 project in 2009. However, times have changed, not only in the political balance and make-up of the Danish Parliament and the Danish Government, but in Russia’s overt, asymmetric, hybrid continual aggression throughout the European Union and the European neighbourhood. It is clearly understandable that Denmark wants to avoid confrontation with Russia over its disputed Arctic territory and the countries’ overlapping areas of the continental shelf, but Denmark must also decide whether Russia is a reliable and trustworthy energy partner.
Some suggest that Nord Stream 2 falls foul of the EU’s third energy package and in some respects that is true. However, both Russia and Ukraine are regarded as third countries, and in legal terms the third energy package is predominantly, as the Minister will know, an internal market policy and directive. So it is perhaps less of a defence against Nord Stream 2, although the project completely undermines Europe’s stated policy of an energy union; I think that is quite clear for all to see.
I accept that Nord Stream 2 is an economic project—I am not arguing against my earlier point, which I made in my introduction—and indeed a commercial prospect. However, it is also and predominantly a political project—a Russian geopolitical project. That must make European capitals wake up and count the cost of ending construction of the project now, rather than potentially counting a far higher human cost and territorial cost in the future.
The question that Germany and EU partners, and I would carefully suggest, the UK, need to ask themselves is this: can Russia be trusted to supply over the medium and long term affordable, reliable and secure gas to the peoples and businesses of Europe? If there is any doubt or hesitation in formulating a positive reply to that rather simple question, surely Europe’s security and economic competence will be put at high risk by this project.
I begin by warmly congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) on securing this debate, which covers a matter of considerable concern, both in this country and across Europe. I think we saw evidence of that yesterday, when the Prime Minister gave her statement following the NATO summit. In the questions that followed, five hon. Members raised the issue of Nord Stream 2 and expressed concern about its consequences.
That concern has been echoed in Governments across Europe. My hon. Friend said that he had spoken to the President of Latvia, the former President of Poland and to Italy. As he knows, I chair the all-party parliamentary groups on Ukraine, Moldova, Lithuania and Belarus, and when the Moldovan and Lithuanian Foreign Ministers visited London they raised Nord Stream 2 as a specific concern and potential threat to the security of their countries. Last week at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Berlin, I participated in a meeting organised by the Ukrainian delegation to highlight many of the points that my hon. Friend made so forcefully.
When my right hon. Friend the Minister has discussed Nord Stream 2 in the past—I have raised it with him—he has suggested that it is primarily a commercial matter and, because the UK is at the far end of a long pipeline, it is of less concern to us. However, I hope he will recognise the security implications that we must take seriously. First, is this a commercial matter? It is hard to see any commercial justification for the massive investment that Nord Stream 2 will require. The existing pipeline, which crosses through Ukraine, does a pretty good job. It is highly flexible, allowing fluctuations in gas pressure, and it has spare capacity. It may need some investment to bring it up to modern standards, and that could cost an estimated $100 to $300 million a year.
On a recent trip to Brussels, I spoke to the Commission about its plans for a net-zero target, which would bring a significant reduction in gas demand across north-western Europe. One would think that that would revise yet further the commercial case for a new pipeline such as Nord Stream 2.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. The more one looks at the economic case for the investment, the harder it is to see. The cost of building Nord Stream 2 is estimated at $17 billion, and it will not add to capacity as there is spare capacity in the existing pipeline. Ukraine moved about 94 billion cubic metres of gas last year, which left 55 billion cubic metres of spare capacity. It difficult to see any significant increase in demand—in actual fact, as he points out, there may well be a reduction.
The commercial justification simply does not add up. In a recent analysis of the economics, Sberbank said, “The Power of Siberia”—another gas pipeline—
“Nord Stream-2 and Turkish Stream are all deeply value-destructive projects that will eat up almost half of Gazprom’s investments over the next five years. They are commonly perceived as being foisted on the company by the government pursuing a geopolitical agenda.”
We are extremely familiar with the idea that Gazprom is used by the Russian Government as an instrument to deliver their political objectives. In the last decade or so, we have seen the Russian Government use gas as a weapon on numerous occasions—particularly in 2009 and 2014—either reducing the amount or, in some cases, cutting off supply altogether.
The Russians use gas because they have the overwhelming supply for most of Europe, and they do not hesitate to deploy it as a political weapon. The new chairman of the Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz, Clare Spottiswoode, will be familiar to many of us here, as for a long time she was the regulator for energy markets in the UK. She did a fantastic job in the UK of fostering competition among gas suppliers, because she believes, as I do, that the way to provide the best service to consumers is by increasing competition, yet she points out that Nord Stream 2 will have a detrimental effect on competition. It is anti-competitive and it will increase the monopolistic stranglehold of Gazprom, and behind it the Russian Federation.
As my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin pointed out, Nord Stream 2 is essentially a political tool. The Polish Prime Minister has described it as a new hybrid weapon. If it replaces the Ukrainian gas pipeline—I think all of us believe that is the long-term objective—the consequence will be for Ukraine to lose up to 4% of its GDP, with an effect on government spending of a cut of about $2.3 billion. This is an economy that is already suffering, with Ukraine having part of its territory under occupation, notably its manufacturing heart in the east. The loss of the pipeline would be a further economic blow to a country that is already finding things difficult.
The consequences for Ukraine, however, are not only economic. The building of Nord Stream 2 and Europe no longer having to rely on Ukraine as a transit country for its supply of gas would remove one of the critical obstacles that stands in the way of further Russian aggression against Ukraine. The need to preserve the existing pipeline has to some extent acted as a disincentive to Russia; removing that disincentive could allow it to increase its military aggression against Ukraine.
As my hon. Friend said, Germany is phasing out nuclear power and, in all likelihood, we shall if anything increase our dependence on Russian gas, and yet at the same time we are engaged in hybrid warfare, as has been pointed out in debates in Parliament on a number of occasions: Russia occupies a part of Ukraine in the Crimean peninsula; it supports separatist movements in eastern Ukraine; it interferes in elections, in particular in the United States and in France; it runs a disinformation campaign through black propaganda; and of course our Government hold it responsible for the murder of a British citizen on UK soil and for the attempted murder of several others. This is not the time to make ourselves more vulnerable to Russian pressure by allowing Russia to increase its stranglehold on gas supply into Europe.
I therefore very much agree with my hon. Friend, and I congratulate him. I hope that the Minister will express—perhaps in stronger terms than we have heard before now—the concerns that exist in the British Government should that project go ahead.
I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) on securing this debate. I can only lament that more Members are not present to take part in it, because it is without doubt important, and the timing should be on all our minds. We sit here on the fourth anniversary of the shooting down of MH17. Four years ago to the day, 298 people were killed, and only last week G7 Ministers said that Russia needs to account for its actions in that murderous affair. In May of this year a Dutch-led investigation concluded that the Government of Russia were, without doubt, responsible for the incident.
In his opening remarks, the hon. Gentleman said that it might seem peculiar that we are having a debate about a pipeline that is many hundreds of miles away, but in the rest of his speech he outlined why it is not peculiar at all. Indeed, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group, the right hon. Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) followed up on that. The debate is an important one for all of Europe and, indeed, for anyone who believes in western democracy and democratic institutions—to which I shall return later.
Earlier this year, just a couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Ukraine with colleagues from the Scottish National party. We spent time in the capital and in eastern Ukraine, going as far as Avdiivka, much to the horror of the British ambassador in Kiev—I can see the Minister looking at me disapprovingly, but I made it back. Nord Stream 2 came up all the time—in fact, literally from the first meeting we had—with the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, the Foreign Relations Committee, the British-Ukrainian friendship group, several other Members of Parliament and civil society activists. All of them wanted to talk about Nord Stream 2, very much in the same terms used by the two previous speakers.
The big question is: where will the money go? What will it be used for? What will this instrument of hybrid war be used to do? Yes, of course it will be used to deteriorate further the situation in Ukraine—there is no doubt that it will be used economically and politically against Ukraine—but I believe, as does the Speaker of the Parliament of Ukraine, that the money will be used to further undermine western democracy and democratic institutions across the western world.
It is popular in some quarters to be anti-western, but I think that western democracy is something worth fighting for—[Interruption.] I rather suspect that I am about to be cut off, but I shall keep going until you tell me otherwise, Sir Edward. The Government must have made an assessment of the situation. It cannot simply be the case that they believe that Nord Stream 2 is not really a matter for them. It must be, given the clear and obvious danger that the Government of Russia present.
Order. I understand that there will be two Divisions, so we will resume as soon as all the participants in this debate get back to this Chamber after the second Division.
Sitting suspended for Divisions in the House.
Well, that was worth it, Sir Edward. Before we stopped for the Divisions, I was saying that the Government must have taken into account what the money that the Russian Government gain from the Nord Stream project will be used for. The Speaker of the Parliament of Ukraine believes it will be used to finance right-wing groups all across the continent of Europe that seek to undermine democratic institutions, national Governments and Parliaments, and the big international institutions on which we all rely, such as NATO and, of course, the European Union.
I will bring my remarks to a close, because I am conscious that more votes are coming up, but the line that we would like the UK Government to take is very clear. They should oppose the Nord Stream 2 project and be at the front of an international campaign to halt it in its tracks. It was somewhat galling to see the US president at the NATO summit leading on that issue in the way he did. It deeply pains me to say it, but what he had to say was absolutely right. However, given the scenes that followed in Helsinki, it cannot be left to the White House to stop this project in its tracks. I say to the Minister, who is eminently qualified, highly experienced and a former oil trader, no less—I cannot think of a Minister in the Government who is better placed to do what I am asking—to show us some muscle and ensure that this project stops now, before it is too late and we all regret it.
It is always a pleasure to serve under your stewardship, Sir Edward. I thank the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) for raising this important debate. It is a much-needed debate addressing the security of the whole of eastern Europe and the region around there, particularly the fears those countries have regarding the current security climate.
The Nord Stream 2 line will have a capacity of over 110 billion cubic metres per year, or 70% of the total gas from Russia to Europe—quite a significant supply. Currently, the only permits obstacle it faces is from Denmark, which is refusing to allow it. Obviously, there are concerns in relation to the Black sea and how that will work. Ukraine, as the hon. Gentleman mentioned, has significant fears about the situation. It currently has the Brotherhood line going through it, which earns about 2% of its GDP; if that lifeline is taken away by the Nord Stream 2 scheme, it fears that it will face serious economic consequences. Having the Brotherhood line protected in a certain way would allow a far better situation in Ukraine, and would allow Russia to work on it.
The debate is based on the export of Russian gas to Germany, which Germany needs to look at very seriously. It cannot just be about its need. When it decided to move to green energy from its previous energy generation mechanisms, the calculation was not made in terms of gas. That is why these issues have arisen. It is very important that we see that.
A number of European countries are currently opposed to the project and have huge security concerns about their future, including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Lithuania. They have significant concerns about what has gone on. Germany needs to look at the way it has handled its energy supply.
We need to look to Russia to see how it can be a corporate partner and a political friend to Europe, rather than antagonising the whole of the EU. If it wants to do such trade across Europe, it has a responsibility to behave in the manner of somebody who wants to work with Europe rather than against its interests. It should certainly be aware of those interests, because of the need to export. Germany also needs to look at what sort of alternative energy it has access to, rather than relying on this pipeline.
The issue will continue. The hon. Member for The Wrekin rightly pointed out the EU’s current role. It is good to see him recognising the fact that the European Union has a function of stability in Europe and is therefore able to put pressure on Russia. I accept the point he makes.
The right hon. Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) raised some serious issues about some of the countries I mentioned. He has a huge amount of experience in that region. His words are very wise and should be listened to. A number of countries, and the EU particularly, have tried to regulate the energy transfer to Germany. It has not yet quite succeeded and we need to know what is going on.
The American line is very strong on this issue. At the moment, we have not had a consistent line. We need to make sure that we can move forward and try to resolve some of the issues. It is a very important issue and a very important debate, and it is important that we pay it attention. I know that the debate has taken a significant amount of time and we are under time pressure because of today’s votes. I would like the Minister to address the steps that we are taking to secure our energy in the UK. The Government have refused the Welsh wave power project and other green energy projects, and I hope the Minister will look at those.
I express my gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) for securing this debate. I recognise his long-standing commitment to foreign policy and security issues, particularly in this region. I am also very grateful for the very constructive comments made by other hon. Members. I will try to respond to the points.
I start by saying that President Trump’s criticism of Germany’s energy relationship with Russia at the NATO summit drew the world’s attention to the proposed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Hon. Members who have followed the issue will know that the Government have been clear about our own significant concerns, which we have expressed both in public and in private.
From a domestic point of view, and that of sheer national interest, Nord Stream 2 would not particularly affect the flow of gas into our own homes. The UK has a diverse and dependable gas supply. The vast majority comes from our own production and from imports from stable producers such as Norway and Qatar. Only about 1% comes from Russia. If we were faced with an interruption to our current supply, we would not be dependent on Russian gas. In such circumstances, we could increase imports of liquefied natural gas and import from many different alternative producers. So Nord Stream 2 would not have a direct impact on the energy security of our own country, but it could have serious implications for other European countries and for Ukraine in particular. There are also serious, wider, strategic implications around the proposed construction of the pipeline.
Last year, 37% of the European Union’s gas imports originated in Russia and some member states were wholly dependent on Russian supplies, so we recognise that Russia will remain a major player in the European gas market. However, we do not believe that Nord Stream 2 is necessary to meet future European demand for gas.
A number of our European partners have raised concerns about the potential impact on European energy security if 80% of Russian gas supplies were to be concentrated through a single entry point into the EU. The Government share those concerns. At a time when Europe should be diversifying energy supply, Nord Stream 2 risks entrenching dependency on Russian gas in the European energy market for decades to come. It would increase Russia’s ability to use energy as a political tool in a manner that could go to the heart of certain countries’ economic wellbeing.
To counteract that, it is essential that European countries support initiatives that diversify and strengthen the wider European gas market. To that end, we support, for instance, the southern gas corridor that would bring gas from Azerbaijan into the EU. That project offers increased diversity of supply to south-eastern Europe and it would contribute to enhanced energy security across the wider continent.
Proposed amendments to the EU gas directive, which are under discussion, would also help to alleviate the risks associated with Nord Stream 2, as they would require Nord Stream 2 and all other interconnected pipelines between EU member states and third countries to be fully compliant with EU rules. We support efforts to implement those amendments, as they will help to ensure a level playing field and a competitive market for gas in the EU.
As has been mentioned, the potential impact of Nord Stream 2 on Ukraine is a particular concern and has come to dominate the strategic assessment of this proposed project. Ukraine hosts the largest existing transit pipeline for Russian gas, and transit fees made up 2.3% of Ukraine’s GDP last year. If constructed, Nord Stream 2 would divert supplies away from Ukraine, with significant consequences for its economy. Furthermore, Russia has historically used gas as a political tool against Ukraine, for instance causing serious gas disruptions in 2006, 2009 and 2014-15. At one point, Russia threatened to do so again this year. So Ukraine’s energy system would only become more vulnerable if it was replaced by Nord Stream 2 as a transit route.
The current gas transit agreement between Russia and Ukraine expires in December 2019. It is essential that there is a new agreement in place beforehand, to provide long-term certainty for the Ukrainian Government and the Ukrainian people. I welcome Chancellor Merkel’s statements in April that Nord Stream 2 has a political dimension and would not be possible without clarity on the future transit role of Ukraine. I also welcome the EU Commission’s efforts to facilitate gas transit negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.
I take this opportunity to reiterate our long-standing and unwavering commitment to Ukraine. The UK is, and will remain, one of Ukraine’s strongest supporters. We provide political and practical support that strengthens Ukraine’s sovereignty and resilience. Over the next year, we will provide another £35 million in technical and humanitarian support to Ukraine. We will press on with training the Ukrainian armed forces, to strengthen their ability to defend their country. We will help Ukraine to counter Russian disinformation; we will help Ukraine with reforms to its energy market; and we will work closely with the Ukrainian Parliament’s fuel and energy committee.
Forgive me, Sir Edward; this question is certainly related to the debate, although it may not seem so on the face of it. Can the Minister say whether any of the support that the Government plan to give, now and in future, involves resolving the ludicrous visa situation that exists?
That is slightly tangential, as the hon. Gentleman admitted in his first sentence. Wherever I go, visas are a serious diplomatic problem. They cause a lot of upset in many countries when people, quite rightly and with reasonable intent, wish to travel here, but find that it is very expensive, it takes a long time and it is sometimes very inefficient.
The Minister may be coming on to make some remarks about Denmark, but I hope that he will be able to address the question I set out in my speech: what representations have the UK Government had with the Government of Denmark over Nord Stream 2, and what was the precise nature of those discussions?
I can answer that straightaway. I am fully aware that Denmark has not yet issued the relevant permits for the construction of Nord Stream 2—which would be in its territorial waters, as has been mentioned. We have raised our security of supply concerns with Denmark, and we anticipate its decision in the autumn. The former Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), raised the issue with the Danes, and I have discussed it in the margins of foreign affairs committees in Brussels in the past.
We give all that help to Ukraine because it is essential for Ukraine’s future security and prosperity, and because it is essential for upholding European values and the wider security and prosperity of Europe. I fully recognise the concerns that hon. Members have expressed and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin for drawing attention to this important issue by securing the debate.
Let me be clear: Nord Stream 2 represents a risk to European energy security and to Ukraine. Existing pipelines already provide enough capacity to meet the European demand for gas. We do not believe that Nord Stream 2 is necessary and we remain concerned that its construction will be harmful to European interests and those of Ukraine.
For that reason, we will continue to express concerns in discussions with partners across Europe, as I did with the German Minister, Michael Roth, last week. As the Prime Minister noted yesterday, she has been discussing it around the EU Council table for some time. We back amendments to the gas directive to ensure that all interconnector pipelines operate within EU internal energy market rules, and we will continue to support initiatives that strengthen and diversity the supply of gas to the European market. I assure hon. Members that we will play our full part in defending the interests of Ukraine, and we will not shy away from having a strong opinion about such an important strategic proposal.
The Minister’s comments are the most robust that I have heard from any Government Minister, including the Prime Minister yesterday. They are welcome remarks, although perhaps more in Ukraine than in the United Kingdom. He uses the word “risk”, which I also used in my speech, and said that he felt that Nord Stream 2 was not necessary because of the existing supplies in the European Union.
Notwithstanding the Minister’s comments on Denmark, I encourage him to go further, given that he is also the Minister for the Americas. The British Government may have had some differences with the White House—in particular, with President Trump—in the last few hours vis-à-vis our policy on Russia; none the less, on this issue we can agree with the White House and even with President Trump. I hope those discussions will prove fruitful—not only for our bilateral relations with the United States, but for Ukraine’s future.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered Nord Stream 2.