Ministers being urged to curb Chinese involvement in Britain’s nuclear power plants as relations with Beijing sour
Ministers are being urged to curb Chinese involvement in Britain’s nuclear power plants as relations with Beijing sour.
As Hinkley Point C is built in Somerset, state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) is being lined up as a partner in similar schemes planned for Sizewell in Suffolk, and Bradwell in Essex.
The projects were part of a deal struck by former prime minister David Cameron and Chinese premier Xi Jinping in 2015, with the nations hailing a ‘golden era’ of relations.
Toxic: Senior Tories want PM Boris Johnson to reconsider Chinese involvement as concerns grow about Beijing’s ambitions and potential grip on important infrastructure
But senior Tories want Boris Johnson to reconsider as concerns grow about Beijing’s ambitions and potential grip on important infrastructure.
The Prime Minister has restricted the involvement of Chinese telecoms firm Huawei in the 5G mobile network. Now China’s ambassador to the UK has fired a warning shot at the Government in return.
Liu Xiaoming has privately told ministers China could cut its backing for the nuclear plants and HS2 if Huawei is sidelined in 5G plans.
HSBC has also asked the Government to reconsider its position on Huawei.
Chairman Mark Tucker told Johnson he feared fresh reprisals against HSBC in China if Huawei was blocked, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
Johnson has faced pressure from US President Donald Trump and Tory backbenchers to ban the firm altogether.
Tougher scrutiny of China has grown as its relations with the UK cooled, with Beijing’s communist leadership criticised over its early handling of the pandemic as well as its crackdown on Hong Kong.
Bob Seely, a member of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: ‘The world has changed. There’s a strong case for saying we need to be more mindful of our vulnerabilities.
‘I would be wary of letting China in. That’s the case with Huawei and nuclear power. It is better to be safe than sorry.’
French firm EDF submitted plans last week for Sizewell, which it will develop with CGN – the second of the three plants agreed by Cameron and Xi. Hinkley, the first, was reviewed by Theresa May’s government but allowed to go ahead.
Like that plant, Sizewell C will use French designs. CGN will help to fund it and have an option to take a 20 per cent stake.
But state-owned CGN will be the senior partner at Bradwell, owning a two-thirds stake and using its own designs. Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warns the plants are set to become ‘the next Huawei’.