DAVID Cameron has signalled a new “golden era” in the UK’s relationship with China after a deal was struck to build the first new UK nuclear power station in a generation.
The Prime Minister held talks with Chinese president Xi Jinping yesterday at Downing Street as part of a four-day state visit by the head of the People’s Republic.
About £40 billion of investment in the UK has been announced by China including a £660 million deal with Falkirk-based Alexander Dennis to build electric buses.
But the growing closeness between the two nations has prompted concerns over the UK’s nuclear security and China’s human rights record.
French giant EDF yesterday signed an investment agreement with the China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) to build the new plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, costing £18bn, to be operating by 2025.
Mr Cameron has hailed the UK’s “strong” relationship with China.
“This visit marks the start of a new era – some have called it a golden era – in relations between Britain and China,” he said. “An era of stronger economic ties, deeper trade links, closer relations between our peoples, and meaningful dialogue on the issues that matter.”
Mr Cameron insisted the UK did not have to choose between doing deals with China and raising difficult issues like the steel industry crisis and human rights.
He added: “The stronger the relationship between our countries, the more we will be able to have a serious dialogue. We may not always agree, but we can discuss issues openly.”
President Xi hailed joint work to “open up a golden era of an enduring, inclusive, win-win China/UK relationship” and suggested the Hinkley Point deal would be the first of many.
Concerns have been raised about giving China such a central role in UK energy generation. Aside from Hinkley Point, two other stations at Sizewell in Suffolk, and Bradwell in Essex, are set to follow. The plant at Bradwell will be Chinese-designed, and will provide China with its first western showcase for its nuclear technology.
However, the security services, as well as senior United States strategists, are among those to have voiced fears about the extent of the nuclear technology which China will now be getting its hands on.