French President François Hollande (R) speaks next to British Prime Minister Theresa May during a joint press conference on July 21, 2016 at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. (AFP photo)
British Prime Minister Theresa May has personally intervened to delay the construction of a controversial nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C to further review the costly project.
May’s predecessor David Cameron promoted the £18 billion project by French energy company EDF with financial backing from China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) as a sign of Britain’s openness to foreign investment.
The two companies behind the initiative were shocked when the British government refused to give final approval for the nuclear reactor hours before a signing ceremony was due to take place on Friday.
May has reportedly discussed her plans to review the project with French President François Hollande, when they met in Paris last week and later during a phone conversation.
Britain’s former business secretary Vince Cable said that, as home secretary, May was unhappy about Cameron’s approach to Chinese investment in Britain and had clashed with Cabinet over the Hinkley Point project.
“When we were in government Theresa May was quite clear she was unhappy about the rather gung-ho approach to Chinese investment that we had,” he told BBC Radio.
Sources said French officials took the about-turn more easily than officials close to the Chinese consortium who said they were “bemused at the turn of the events.”
Greg Clark, the new secretary for business, energy and industrial strategy, met with the chief executives of the French and Chinese companies behind the project to reassure them that the UK’s energy policy had not changed.
Security experts are concerned about the involvement of the Chinese in the project which would give them access to computer systems of Britain’s energy production.