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Debate stirs over British energy policy

Backers of a push to leave the European Union criticize tactics of British energy secretary.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Debate stirs over British energy policy
Group opposed to British membership in the European Union said claims of a rise in consumer energy prices are a scare tactic by members of the Cameron administraton. Photo by Kodda/Shutterstock

LONDON, March 25 (UPI) -- Supporters of British considerations to leave the European Union lashed out at the energy secretary for saying consumer costs would soar with more autonomy.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said the British energy sector would get a "massive electric shock" if the country left the European Union as energy costs would potentially rise collectively by as much as $700 million per year.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron this year set a referendum for membership in the European Union. Though Cameron supports membership, some in his administration, and elsewhere, are standing in opposition.

Matthew Elliot, the director for the pro-autonomy group Vote Leave, said it was the single-market policy of the European Union that's putting pressure on consumer pocketbooks.

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"Amber Rudd's absurd claims simply aren't backed up by her own research," he said in a statement. "It is quite extraordinary the extent to which the government is willing to do down Britain in its desperate attempt to win the referendum."

Elliot pointed to research, from 2013, stating the British economy is more self-sufficient in terms of natural gas when compared to its European counterparts in Germany and France.

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Among other directives, Europe aims to break the Russian grip on the regional energy sector. Elliot said the British economy was among the least dependent on Russian gas, though options in the past have been considered for a British link to Nord Stream, a Russian gas pipeline running through the Baltic Sea.

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Rudd said standing by European partners would create a unified force against Russia, which she accused of using energy as a geopolitical tool.

"We can't let our energy security be hijacked as a political pawn to bring Europe to its knees," she said in a statement. "By working together in the European Union each member state can stop this becoming a reality."

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