I'm delighted to have discovered a leaked 'damage limitation' briefing, sent to David Cameron from advisers, ahead of his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week. The paper gives some useful advice on what Mr Cameron should say to 'extract' himself from a damaging and embarrassing deal involving Chinese finance for nuclear new build...
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Offer welcoming niceties in the usual way, though the kowtow exercises which all cabinet ministers were trained in last week will not now be needed. However, a grovelling apology to Mr Jinping will be appropriate as he has previously been led to believe the meeting would involve an agreement about Chinese finance for new nuclear power stations in the UK.
Point out that after careful consideration, and listening to a wide range of advice including from the security services, the government has decided that it does not want China National Nuclear - run by the Chinese Communist Party and also involved in China's nuclear weapons - involved in the UK's energy supply.
Explain that the government has decided instead to go all out to exploit the country's fantastic mix of renewable energy resources, which are abundant but still massively under-exploited, (worth avoiding further egg-on-face by not mentioning that wind energy is now the cheapest way to generate electricity in the UK, so as to avoid awkward questions about cuts in subsidies to renewables). Make clear to the President that Hinkley would be the most expensive electricity generating plant anywhere in the world and that the government simply cannot justify supporting such a plant. In addition, it would be worth adding that Hinkley has had a 'chilling' effect on renewable energy development both in terms of funding of renewables projects and in the allocation of spare grid capacity.
Apologise profusely for having given the impression that the UK government appeared willing to sacrifice the renewable energy sector and the thousands of jobs it creates in order to lever Chinese finance into the City. [Cameron straight talking face needed here] Say that after careful consideration, the government has decided that the real economy is more important than the world of financiers and bankers who inhabit a square mile of London.
Tread carefully when explaining that the government has been feeling increasingly isolated in its support for Hinkley and other nuclear schemes. Suggested line here would be: 'Even our chums in the city have decided this is an expensive white elephant and should be scrapped'.
It is also worth reiterating that the health and safety issues associated with nuclear new build do not warrant such a commitment by the UK government. Delicately point out that China has a questionable commitment to safety and environmental standards and that there is also the ever-present risk of a terrorist attack on nuclear installations.
Finally, explain that delays caused by problems encountered by the Pressurised Water nuclear reactor (EPR) design, proposed for the Hinkley plant, mean that no new electricity from nuclear is now expected until at least 2023. Be quite assertive in pointing out that this means Hinkley will fail to deliver in time to avert a serious energy gap. Remind Mr Jinping that between now and then, renewables can fill the gap quickly and cheaply and create many more jobs in the process. Perhaps reiterate newly discovered commitment to the real economy at this point.
Having given details about why the government has decided to refuse Chinese finance and hand over our energy infrastructure to the Chinese Communist Party, move the conversation onto Human Rights (see separate briefing from Amnesty International).
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