George Osborne’s announcement that Chinese companies will be able to invest in British nuclear power plants has drawn accusations from the Liberal Democrats that he stole their credit.
Osborne was “as close to the real renegotiations and the work as Pluto is to the earth”, one Liberal Democrat reportedly said.
The Chancellor unveiled the news during his visit to China, adding that Chinese companies will eventually be able to take majority stakes in new nuclear power stations in the UK. “It means the potential of more investment and jobs in Britain, and lower long-term energy costs for consumers,” he said.
Speaking to the Financial Times, a LibDem said he was the “John Terry of government”, referring to the Chelsea captain last May celebrating the team’s Champions League victory by changing into full kit and bounding onto the pitch to lift the trophy.
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In an official response, energy secretary Ed Davey said: “This is an exciting development, strengthening our relationship with China in a way that will benefit both countries. Investment from Chinese companies in the UK electricity market is welcome, providing they can meet our stringent regulatory and safety requirements.”
EDF has been negotiating with three Chinese nuclear firms for the Hinkley C Nuclear Power station, which is due to be the UK’s first nuclear power station since 1995. The French firm is the main firm behind the project, but has been looking for partners to shoulder the costs.
The Chancellor previously announced in his visit that Chinese tech giant Huawei would be investing in a research and development centre in the UK, despite fears from security experts about the firm’s links to the Chinese government.
Osborne also welcomed Chinese investment in Manchester’s ‘Airport City’ construction project, hours before its director resigned.
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