Macron’s grip: France to gain further control of UK energy with £1.7bn deal despite threat

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The impressive investment package was revealed this week in the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget, in addition to millions of pounds being earmarked for nuclear research and development. Although Chancellor Rishi Sunak did not expand upon the Government’s immediate plans, documents published by the Treasury confirm ministers are still in “active negotiations” with the French over the Sizewell C nuclear power station. The proposed plant in Suffolk is still awaiting planning approval and the Government has been scrambling to secure the required funding.

Valued at about £20billion, the project has been taken under the wings of EDF, which is backed by the French state.

EDF is presently building the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset.

The Treasury has allocated “up to £1.7billion of direct government funding” to help reach a final decision on funding the project before the next general election in 2024.

However, the final decision will be “subject to value for money and approvals”.

Treasury documents read: “As well as accelerating the decarbonisation of transport and buildings, the Government is investing £1.5billion in net zero innovation, and laying the foundations for the wider transition to a more resilient energy supply by investing in nuclear technologies and offshore wind.

“This includes £1.7billion to enable a final investment decision for a large-scale nuclear project in this Parliament, and the government remains in active negotiations with EDF over the Sizewell C project.”

The Treasury has also allocated £380million towards expanding the UKs world-leading offshore wind power sector and £120million for a new Future Nuclear Enabling Fund.

The Government’s decision to back nuclear was welcomed by the Nuclear Industry Association.

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Chief executive Tom Gretrex said: “This is a big vote of confidence in nuclear and a historic step forward for nuclear investment with new money for a large-scale project, alongside money for modular reactors to enable future projects.

“We can not get to net zero without investing in new nuclear capacity and this is a clear signal from the government to investors that it sees nuclear as essential to our clean energy transition.

“This is not only an investment in a greener future but also in jobs and skills right across the country.”

Earlier this week, ministers revealed a new funding model for nuclear projects in the UK.

According to Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, the new financing model could save the British taxpayers up to £30billion on every large-scale project.

The so-called Regulated Asset Base or RAB, has already been used to finance a number of projects, including the £4.2billion Thames Tideway – a 15 mile-long (25km) “super sewer” running under Inner London.

The Government’s commitment to maintaining negotiations with EDF comes despite French Ministers threatening sanctions against the UK over a fishing dispute.

Westminster and Paris have been at loggerheads over the issues of French trawlers gaining access to British waters post-Brexit.

The dispute led to France calling the European Union to intervene in September.

The Channel Islands have been at the heart of the conflict, with the French side threatening to cut power to the island.

Although not a part of the United Kingdom, Jersey is a Crown Dependency and relies on the UK for protection.

However, more than 90 percent of the island’s energy is provided by France.

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