Trade with China is a good thing. But Hinkley Point is a dud
时间：2019-09-01 责任编辑：寇澧馄 来源：合乐888手机版 点击：226 次
For , getting to be prime minister was easy. Your predecessor makes a hash of things. Party rivals knife each other in the back or throw in the towel. You then mouth a few platitudes about a fairer society and, hey presto, you have a photo of a bemused spouse and a grin on your face before a cheering crowd. What could be simpler? It’s how they change leaders in China.
That is as far as we can take Sino-British comparison just now. While David Cameron carouses with his ennobled chums, May has to cleanse the Augean stables he left behind. Top of the manure pile is the deal with China and on Hinkley Point.
To May’s credit, she instantly did the right thing. . An empty marquee and some stale champagne were better than 30 years of lunacy. An embarrassed Foreign Office and a furious French quango were certainly better than the worst procurement deal in British history.
But what now, when Project Pain says that Britain post-Brexit must kowtow to the Chinese more than ever? Businessmen will soon be lost in the turbulent seas of world trade. Surely Hinkley and were to be their life rafts.
Like all vanity projects born of globe-trotting diplomacy rather than hard commerce, Hinkley has become a sacrificial symbol of Britain’s desperation to “punch above its weight”. China’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, . He wrote not of energy economics but of “mutual trust”, of relations “at a crucial historical juncture” and of Britain as “a country open to foreign investors”. He forbore to mention Brexit. He merely implied that May was in a bad spot just now, and she had better sign Hinkley or be sorry.
Thanks to the incompetence of the Blair, Brown and Cameron governments, Britain will soon be chronically short of baseload (that is, not wind) electricity generation. It was hoped that salvation might come from a new generation of French nuclear stations. These have not worked anywhere, and to pretend that Hinkley is the answer has long been not just reckless but absurdly expensive. Only those with fingers in the nuclear till still excuse Hinkley – and they do not include France’s EDF accountants and trade unions.
We smell a rat when lobbyists start using the language of Hinkley’s apologists such as . On the BBC he did not mention value for money, but rather “invidious relations” with China, of “paying the price”, of world stages and goodwill. This is the diplomat-speak that dazzled with Beijing and Paris: he promised guarantees and rates of return inconceivable in current bond markets, at triple the current energy price to future British consumers – even assuming the project sees production.
The argument can cut both ways. If I were a Beijing Westminster-ologist, I would argue that China should respect a trading partner that knows a bad deal when it sees one – and has a leader with the guts to admit it. I would argue that there are better candidates for China’s Trojan horse on to the world economic stage than a white elephant flopping on the shores of the Bristol Channel.
Besides, Beijing should beware a nation incapable of building its own power stations, especially when its central bank is awash in cash. What use is a Britain that has to wheedle, bribe and bow to foreigners for a project that domestic investors would not rightly touch with a bargepole?
There is clearly some nonsense in Downing Street’s reported reservations over Hinkley’s security. To question China’s good intentions in financing the power station is silly. It is a French-built plant, and the idea that Beijing might contrive to embed and then activate some doomsday bug is absurd. For May’s aides to witter on about Chinese duplicity suggests she has yet to shed her enthralment to Home Office securocrats.
Nonsense too are much-vaunted “reservations about human rights”. Britain does commercial deals with all sorts of horrible places. The idea that China, any more than Britain, would allow its internal politics to be influenced by foreign opinion is another diplomat’s fantasy. Nothing was more hypocritical than British ministers at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, “raising human rights issues” with Chinese officials as a sort of burp, before cheering on a blatant display of communist autocracy.
May’s team should do the opposite. They should shut up about security and discuss with China the constructive alternatives to Hinkley. These might include ways in which Chinese nuclear technology, not just money, might bear fruit in Britain, as in the new age of small-scale generators. Trade, as the ambassador says, is a matter of mutual trust, but also of mutual benefit. There is no mutuality in Hinkley, but there might be in “modular” reactors, as has already been mooted.
The prime minister has to get this one right. She needs to show herself rational, decisive and immune to the blandishments of the Downing Street old guard. That guard left her a terrible legacy: not just Brexit but a bankrupt health service, crippled welfare reform, London airports going nowhere, and . Small wonder Cameron got out so quick.
There are undeniable challenges ahead for British trade policy. One is not to capitulate to the Brexit headbangers and neglect a new deal with the European Union. Such a deal would patently benefit both Britain and Europe. The British voted to leave the EU, not to oppose trade with .
Equally foolish would be continuing to countenance Hinkley. Downing Street knows what the Treasury knows and every energy pundit and commentator knows. They know what the French know and the Chinese know. They all know that Hinkley is a dud, a rip-off, a blunder. A bevy of gilded lobbyists may declare it a glorious symbol of eternal love between the Chinese and the British peoples. So is a good dinner.
For Britain to seal such a symbol by agreeing to massively overspend on electricity for a generation displays nothing but idiocy. May has rightly given herself time for reflection. The kindest, boldest thing would be to bring that reflection swiftly to an end.