17/02/2012 01:05 GMT | Updated 17/02/2012 03:33 GMT

UK And France Sign Landmark Nuclear Deal

Britain and France are to sign a landmark agreement to co-operate on civil nuclear energy, paving the way for the construction of a new generation of power plants in the UK.

Deals worth more than £500 million between British and French companies will allow work to start on new facilities, creating more than 1,500 jobs across the country.

The summit will mark a more 'cordiale' relationship between the two leaders, which has been marked by tension over the past few months. Cameron's decision to withdraw Britain from a fiscal compact in the eurozone, as well as a downgrade of France's credit rating has left the relations between Cameron and Sarkozy strained.

Sarkozy famously delivered 'le snub' to the British Prime Minister after Cameron's late night veto as well as reportedly telling Cameron to "shut up" in October.

However the Prime Minister, who is travelling to Paris for talks with President Nicolas Sarkozy to seal the deal, said the agreements were "just the beginning" of investment which the Government believes could be worth £60 billion and create 30,000 jobs.

A joint declaration to be signed by the two leaders at a UK-France summit will signal a shared commitment to civil nuclear power, establishing a framework for co-operation on security, research and development, education and training. Also high on the agenda will be the unrest in Syria, defence and concerns over Iran's possible ambitions for nuclear weapons.

Mr Sarkozy announced earlier this week that he will stand for re-election in the presidential elections to be held on April 22 and May 6, with polls suggesting he is trailing Socialist rival Francois Hollande.

Downing Street said that by joining forces in the nuclear sector, Britain and France can develop a competitive supply chain capable of seizing opportunities around the world.

Rolls-Royce will sign a £400 million deal with French energy giant Areva to supply services to the first EPR reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset, with a commitment for future EPR sites in the UK. Rolls-Royce will build a dedicated factory in Rotherham and the deal will underpin more than 1,200 jobs in the company and its supply chain.

Meanwhile, France's EDF will conclude a £100 million agreement with Keir/BAM Nuttall for preliminary works at Hinkley Point - the first major construction project to be awarded in the £10 billion project. EDF will invest in a £15 million training campus in nearby Bridgwater.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Cameron said: "At our last summit, we signed a historic partnership on defence. Today, we will match that ambition on nuclear energy. As two great civil nuclear nations, we will combine our expertise to strengthen industrial partnership, improve nuclear safety and create jobs at home."

"The deals signed today will create more than 1,500 jobs in the UK but they are just the beginning. My goal is clear. I want the vast majority of the content of our new nuclear plants to be constructed, manufactured and engineered by British companies. And we will choose the partners and technologies to maximise the economic benefits to the UK."