Government sticks to nuclear policy

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Published: Saturday 14th February 2015 by The News Editor

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The Government has backed a call to the senior European official responsible for energy policy to insist that the UK must remain able to build new nuclear plants amid a growing diplomatic row with Austria over the Hinkley Point C project.

The Prime Minister refused to accept a letter the Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann tried to hand to him at this week’s meeting of European leaders in Brussels in connection with the dispute and told him no other country could dictate the UK’s energy policy.

It is understood that the letter from Mr Faymann questioned whether a threat had been made that the UK-Austrian relationship would be damaged by Vienna’s plan to mount a legal challenge against the European Commission’s decision to approve the funding deal for the new nuclear power station in Somerset.

According to a leaked memo, the Austrian deputy ambassador in London reportedly told his Government in Vienna that the UK will take “every opportunity” to damage the country if Vienna does not drop a legal challenge to the construction of the £24.5 billion plant.

The Guardian reported that the diplomatic cable says that the Foreign Office’s Europe director, Vijay Rangarajan, conveyed a message that “the UK will take in the future every opportunity to sue or damage Austria in areas that have strong internal political effects” if it went ahead with the challenge at the European Court of Justice against the decision that the project was compatible with EU state aid rules.

A British official said the Prime Minister told Mr Faymann, whose administration is opposed to nuclear power, he would not let another country “dictate what’s in Britain’s own energy interest”.

“The PM’s view is clear – it’s for each country to decide their own energy mix,” the source said. “That’s also the view spelt out in the EU treaties and the PM explained to chancellor Faymann that he is not going to have other countries seeking to dictate what’s in Britain’s own energy interest.”

The UK is supporting a letter to European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, who oversees energy, signed by countries including France, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia underlining their view that nuclear power has an important role to play across the continent.

It points out “the EU’s future energy policy must fully reflect the right of member states to determine their own low carbon energy mix, as enshrined in the EU treaties and leave the option of nuclear power open”.

Published: Saturday 14th February 2015 by The News Editor

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