Cameron has often said Britain is open for business. What it seems he meant was Britain is open for sale. There is no other country in the world which would throw open its strategic industrial sectors to a foreign power. That is exactly what the Tories are now proposing to do with handing over the building and ownership of 5 new nuclear power stations to the Chinese.
Energy supply is a national security issue as much as military defence, and to hand over control of 5-10% of Britain’s future power supply is taking a risk that no other country would countenance. This is a classic example of the neoliberal (Tory and New Labour) fixation with allowing the market to take all the decisions, even the biggest ones, without regard for the national strategic interest.
The US Congress blocked attempted takeovers of a large US oil company by China Oil and of US port facilities by Dubai Ports. Germany stopped invasion of its key Mittelstand by US investors who were dubbed ‘locusts’. France notoriously safeguards from takeover every institution which is even remotely deemed strategic (even, comically, a big yogurt producer).
Britain however has been only too ready to sell off its largest airports to the Spanish (Ferrovial, with disastrous consequences for queues at Heathrow), its steel mills to the Indians (Tata), its water supply to the Germans and French (and now an asset-stripping Australian bank), its glass-making to the Japanese (Pilkingtons), its confectionery to the Americans (Cadburys sold to Kraft who promptly reneged on the promise made in the bidding process), its wind turbine manufacture to the Danes (Vesta closed on the Isle of Wight), and so on and so on.
The UK manufacturing base has been hollowed out over the last 30 years, and now even the capital plant and property is being handed over to our competitors. For a self-determining and independent country this is the economic road to perdition. Even politically this is high risk: our relations with China today are (fairly) amicable, who knows in 25 years?
What makes this decision to outsource nuclear power construction to China particularly galling is that this is the wrong road to be going down anyway. Britain’s energy future lies with renewable sources of energy – particularly abundant windpower and wave and tidal power. The cost of building a nuclear power plant, as the taxpayer will soon find out (if this absurd plan goes ahead), is now colossal.
The obsession with nuclear will certainly crowd out renewables for a generation ahead. And then there’s still the unresolved problems of nuclear waste disposal, the uncertainties of location because of climate change, the risks of nuclear proliferation, the small but never negligible risks of catastrophic accident,…………….