Senior environmental campaigners have recently reported the UK to the European Commission as they fear the hidden subsidies from the UK to two French nuclear power companies may contravene EU competition law according to the BBC.
The European Commission could, indeed, be a force for good as the full implications of the agreement to boost civil nuclear co-operation signed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy become apparent.
The situation is so bad that four former directors of Friends of the Earth – Jonathon Porritt, Tom Burke, Charles Secrett and Tony Juniper – have told the Prime Minister he is being badly advised.
These four experienced environmentalists are no doubt right. The two main players in the UK’s plans are the energy giants EDF and Areva, both of whom are largely French government owned. David Cameron’s plans for nuclear power therefore risk handing control of the UK’s climate and energy policies to France. In other words David Cameron is preparing to sell the UK down the river once again.
Mr Secrett has gone so far as to state that building new nukes will be a massive rip-off for the British taxpayer, asking, “How on earth can the Prime Minister justify paying billions of pounds of subsidy to French power companies when the chancellor [George Osborne] is slashing welfare budgets for poor people in Britain and there are a million young people unemployed?”
The situation whereby British energy production could be in French hands stems from a bill currently being finalised by the Department of Energy and Climate Change on reform of the energy market which will effectively offer fixed prices to companies generating low-carbon power. Since the UK Government is relying on French EDF to commission and operate new power stations and Areva to build reactors, the French firms are in a position to bargain hard and secure a strong financial package. The fact that the French Government has a large stake in both companies simply adds less than delicious icing to the cake.
According to the four ex-FoE Directors, the French will only proceed if the large financial risks of the new nuclear build are transferred from France to British households and businesses. The problem lies in the fact that they more than likely will proceed as the Government is not properly considering other options.
While most reasonable people wish to see energy produced with as low a level of carbon emissions as possible, the way forward is surely not to subsidise the French nuclear industry, especially when it’s the British people and British business that will pay these subsidies.
It is also quite extraordinary that a Prime Minister who has been as anti-Europe as David Cameron who leads a party that is becoming ever more Eurosceptic should sell Britain out in such a cack-handed way. From the outside it very much looks as if David Cameron did not really know what he was doing in relation to this whole nuclear energy package. Either that or he is currying favour with fellow right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy at the expense of British taxpayers.
My view is that Cameron has very nearly sleepwalked into the very disadvantageous agreement. His lack of negotiating skills were demonstrated when he walked out of the EU summit in Brussels on December 9 last year. Sadly our Prime Minister just can’t hack it, as has been so eloquently evidenced by Messrs Porritt, Burke, Secrett and Juniper.