The UK intends to use its up coming presidency of the EU to press its European neighbours into developing greater competition and breaking up incumbent national champions that still monopolise some sectors. The six-month presidency, beginning in July, will allow the UK to address concerns such as liberalisation and market manipulation.

“European energy markets need to open up to competition faster,” Mike O’Brien, energy minister, was quoted as saying. “The UK presidency is an opportunity to push open the door of liberalisation. We intend to take that opportunity.”

Ten EU member states have so far failed to implement directives designed to make their gas markets more competitive and transparent, including France and Germany.