China has warned that its trade relationship with the UK could be put in jeopardy if Hinkley Point C isn’t given the green light.
Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming said delaying the approval of the £18bn plant put the countries’ relationship at a “crucial juncture” and any further delays could put the “mutual trust” between both nations at risk.
Writing in the Financial Times, Mr Liu said he hoped Britain “would keep its door open to China” and come to a decision as soon as possible so the Hinkley project could “proceed smoothly”.
His comments come nearly two weeks after prime minister Theresa May delayed the approval of the Hinkley plant, despite the project’s developer EDF securing a final investment decision.
State-backed China General Nuclear Company is expected to fund a third of the project.
The company has also agreed with EDF to support the construction of two other UK nuclear plants at Sizewell and Bradwell.
Mrs May reportedly postponed the decision due to concerns over China’s involvement in the UK’s energy sector.
Former business secretary Vince Cable said Mrs May had been unhappy with the government’s “gung-ho” approach to doing deals with Beijing.
The PM’s chief of staff and adviser Nick Timothy has also expressed security concerns about the Hinkley deal.
But Mr Liu said the UK’s “state-of-the-art” regulatory regime and legal system would ensure the safety of its nuclear plants.
He also praised China’s nuclear safety record over the past 30 years and the projects it had delivered in collaboration with Russia, Canada and the US.
China is currently the UK’s second biggest non-European trading partner. More than £5bn of investment in UK projects was announced during president Xi Jinping’s state visit last October.
Mr Liu said it had been difficult for China and the UK to get to this stage, adding that it was down to the UK’s “openness to foreign trade” that this had been achieved.
He added: “As long as both sides cherish what has been achieved and continue to expand and deepen our co-operation across the board, bilateral relations will maintain their strong momentum and work for the wellbeing of both the Chinese and British people.”