French Don’t See May Exploiting New Power Plant in Brexit Talks

  • May needs time to understand Hinkley Point deal, official says
  • European governments preparing for talks on U.K.’s EU exit

Theresa May.

Photographer: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

The French government doesn’t expect U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to try to use a decision on whether to order an 18 billion-pound ($24 billion) power plant from Electricite de France as leverage in talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union, an official in President Francois Hollande’s office said.

Less than a month into her premiership, May signaled last week that she needs more time to think about whether to build a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, putting a contract negotiated by May’s predecessor, into question.

“The U.K. needs a reliable and secure energy supply and the government believes that nuclear energy is an important part of the mix,” U.K. Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said Thursday. “The government will now consider carefully all the component parts of this project and make its decision in the early autumn.”

Hollande’s administration sees May and her teams as needing time to study the Hinkley Point project because they are unfamiliar with the contract and therefore not ready to commit to it, the senior French official said. EDF Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy was aware of the British government’s need for more time when he pushed the board to approve the investment required to build the plants, the official added.

The talks on Hinkley point are happening as governments across Europe prepare to start separate negotiations with the U.K. on its plan to leave the 28-nation EU. May came to power July 13 after a referendum vote calling for he departure, commonly referred to as Brexit.

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