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‘We need the British!’ EU divided as UK kicked out of crunch North Sea group

EUROPEAN countries “need the British” and should not exclude the UK from international organisations out of spite, a Dutch MEP has warned.

EU states cannot go it alone when it comes to developing offshore wind farms to meet climate change commitments, Frans Timmermans said, as he slammed the decision to boot Britain out of a cooperation platform. Mr Timmermans questioned why the UK had been removed from the North Sea Energy Cooperation (NSEC) platform – which is not an EU group.
NSEC brings together members states France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden – as well as non-EU member Norway.

The forum gives governments a place to draw up ambitious plans for the North Sea – but the UK will no longer have a place at the table.

Mr Timmermans said the European Commission’s decision to remove Britain after it left the bloc on January 31 was not “necessary”.

The Commission vice-president said the nine remaining members would need the help of Britons when it comes to rolling out their plans.

Mr Timmermans said he would work to ensure “cooperation with the British will continue” on the North Sea.

Speaking to Dutch broadcaster NOS on Monday, he said: “I’ve already asked this morning how something like this can happen and whether it’s necessary.

“I really don’t think it’s necessary to remove the British.

“If you want to arrange things property in the North Sea, you need the British too.”

Last month Politico reported an email sent by a Commission official suggested the UK could “no longer be invited to meetings” after Brexit.

Shortly afterwards, the UK was removed from NSEC’s website.

Mr Timmermans has called for a full explanation on why the British were ejected, according to an EU source.

Established in 2016, the forum is not an official EU entity but rather an inter-governmental body.

At present, Germany presides over group discussions.

The Commission’s decision to kick the UK out was supported by the Germans.

The EU needs to install 400 – 450 GW of onshore wind by 2050, the Commission has said. 

This is aimed at limiting the rise in global temperatures to less than 1.5 C and in line with commitments under the Paris Agreement.

According to WindEurope, the UK last year was ahead of the pack when it came to building offshore wind farms.

The trade body said 3.6 GW was built offshore in 2019, with the UK accounting for nearly half of the new capacity.

And the size of offshore wind farms is quickly increasing.

The average site today encompasses over 600 MW, up from 300 MW in 2010.

The cost of setting up such farms is less than building new coal, gas or nuclear power plants, research suggests.

“Europe really embraced offshore wind in 2019,” said WindEurope chief executive Giles Dickson.

“Auction prices showed it’s now cheaper to build offshore wind than new gas or coal plants. 

“Several governments raised the amount they want to build.” 

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