UK –China ties at risk over Hinkley Point nuclear plant deal delay
LONDON: Britan’s plans to build the first new UK nuclear plant in 20 years have suffered an unexpected delay as the government postponed a final decision until the early autumn. Britain’s decision to delay final approval for the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant risks cooling relations with economic powerhouse China under new prime minister Theresa May, analysts say.
May’s predecessor David Cameron, who quit after the June referendum vote to leave the European Union, made strong ties with Beijing central to his economic policy. During a state visit last year, Britain rolled out the red carpet for Chinese President Xi Jinping as it sought to attract investment to its austerity-hit economy.
Cameron said Britain would be China’s best partner in the West as they signed $53 billion of deals, including Beijing taking a £6 billion stake in Hinkley Point, Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation.
A ceremony to sign the £18 billion Hinkley Point deal was planned for July 29, French energy giant EDF finally approved the project which had deeply divided its top management as critics fear it could bankrupt the French utility. However, the French government, which owns 85 percent of EDF has been doggedly determined to get Hinkley Point approved as it sees the project as crucial for the long-term viability of France’s nuclear industry.
But Britain’s new leader May who took power on July 13 has already decided to delay the final decision on the project, which is now expected in September.
Chinese state media reacted to the delay by saying it “adds uncertainties to the ‘Golden Era’ of China-UK ties”. Beijing cannot tolerate any accusation that its investment would threaten British national security, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Source : Agencies