This week relations between Britain and China were placed under strain after the government delayed approval for the Hinkley Point nuclear plant. Under David Cameron and George Osborne, Britain’s first new nuclear power station — of which China General Nuclear has a one-third stake — had been expected to get the green light this month. However now Theresa May is in charge, the government appear to have got cold feet.
Announcing that no decision will be made until autumn, Greg Clark — the business, energy and industrial strategy secretary — said the government will now ‘consider carefully all the component parts of this project’. So, while May has never been the biggest fan of Osborne’s pet project, could it be her co-chief of staff Nick Timothy who is leading the voices of discontent?
Last year Timothy — who has been described as May’s ‘political’ brain — penned a blog for Conservative Home titled: ‘The Government is selling our national security to China’. In this, he claimed that — under Cameron — the government ‘seems intent on ignoring the evidence and presumably the advice of the security and intelligence agencies’.
As well as raising concerns about human rights abuses in China, Timothy suggested that the Chinese could have ulterior motives and ‘build weaknesses into computer systems which will allow them to shut down Britain’s energy production at will’:
‘For those who believe that such an eventuality is unlikely, the Chinese National Nuclear Corporation – one of the state-owned companies involved in the plans for the British nuclear plants – says on its website that it is responsible not just for “increasing the value of state assets and developing the society” but the “building of national defence.” MI5 believes that “the intelligence services of…China…continue to work against UK interests at home and abroad.’
He goes on to say that it is ‘baffling’ that — in the light of security concerns — the British government have been so welcome to Chinese state-owned companies. Given that Timothy concludes ‘no amount of trade and investment should justify allowing a hostile state easy access to the country’s critical national infrastructure’, Mr S suspects the project looks less likely with every day that May is in power.