Wednesday, September 24, 2008

" EDF agrees to buy British Energy"

Gosh. EDF agrees to buy British Energy. How decent of them.

Of course the BBC could have used a headline like "French Government Takes Control of Britain's Nuclear Industry", but that, while true, would have overtones of xenophobia, wouldn't it ? Isn't the French state just as valid as the British one ? And besides, as current BE boss Adrian Montague said in a Today interview (Ed Stourton well out of his depth - Montague often ignored his questions and answered ones he hadn't asked), "historically the UK has been extremely open to foreign investment".

"Historically" as in "crime is historically low" - i.e the last twenty-odd years. Prior to that, UK energy generation was UK-controlled and for 50-odd years it was a state utility. No matter.

Besides, as the Beeb's expert (whose name escapes me) pointed out when asked "does it matter that the French government (EDF's largest shareholder) is in effective control of UK nuclear generation ?", all the other, non-nuclear generators are already foreign-owned. Again, not quite answering the question, and again, not being picked up on it.

"Are you concerned that your son has done x ?"

"Well, my daughters have already done y and z"

"Thank you"

The idea that, say, any French administration would sell their nuclear industry to the British government is unimaginable.

I wonder how long it'll be before cheap energy is being sent to France via the channel electricity link while UK customers pay through the nose. Currently (a/c/t Wikipedia) no less than 5% of UK electricity comes from France via the link. And I wonder what the implications of this deal - and the other generator sales - would be if Britain wanted to withdraw from the EU ? Energy blackmail seems to be working pretty well for Russia.

UPDATE - Robert Peston, whose BBC blog has some of the best and most insightful credit-crunch coverage, toes the party line.

"EDF's acquisition of our nuclear power industry can be seen as a powerful message of hope."
aka

"Hey, guess what ? I'm not a friendless nerd ! That big kid who ignored me before wants to sit down and share my sweets ! "
aka

"It's a spectacular vote of confidence from La Republique no less that the United Kingdom is anything but bust."


One could despair. Has it come to this, that Britain handing over a vital strategic asset to a foreign government - a French one, at that - is presented to us as a favour - a boon gratefully received ? Someone in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises must be chuckling.

Ideas have consequences. A combination of Tory privatisation and the decision, back in the early days of the Blair administration (and driven by Guardianista sentiment), to stop further development of nuclear power, resulted in the necessary engineering skills being in short supply. Now they've changed their minds about it - and golly gosh, who's got the skills now ? Not us. Our rulers should be ashamed, but they're shameless.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good points.

Regarding the EU though, French support for it is, as the saying goes, a mile wide and an inch deep. (In Britain its only half a mile wide and half an inch deep!). The French govt is another matter of course but long term we can't count on unequivocal French support for the EU.

Moriarty said...

I've come to the conclusion that the reason New Labour loves to sell off so much of British infrastructure abroad must be because they count it as an export in the books, and are doing it to fiddle the balance of trade figures so they don't look as bad as they really are.

tolkein said...

Dear Laban

Some of my friends used to worry about withdrawing from the Euro or seceding from the EU. Would we be allowed? I pointed out that nobody could stop us, if we wanted to do it. Maybe lawyers would try, but the EU stop Britain? By force? Who? How? The Belgian army? The Dutch? fresh from their courageous example in Srebinica? Or the Germans, whose rules of engagement in Afghanistan prevent them fighting at night? You're surely not thinking of Italy.

If things got difficult with EDF, we could just arrest the senior managers of the company in Britain, if necesary. I daresay we wouldn't need to go that far. EDF owns the power stations, but Britain ultimately controls them. If a French owned business wants to inject a whole lot of capital into our nuclear industry and uses their expertise to get new nuclear stations built, what's not to like?

Anonymous said...

Dear Tolkein,

"What's not to like"? Well EDF is more or less a state-owned and operated monopoly and, in spite of some market opening for industrial customers, still acts like one. I've lived in France for around 30 years now so I know the beast well. It's full of idle, cosseted and overpaid quasi-civil servants who have no regard for the public they serve.
Second, and perhaps more important, it's gobbling up energy companies elsewhere while refusing to open up its home market, which means it will get stronger and stronger and more and more monopolistic throughout Europe. Believe me, this is one aspect of French life you shouldn't be importing

TDK said...

Can I ask the 2nd Anon if (s)he thinks Orange has gotten better or worse over the last ten years.

I think most people would agree that Orange is as good as any of the other players and its relative position is not dramatically better or worse.

It's not implicit that EDF buying nuclear power generation will make things worse and whilst I agree that state run enterprises generally do become full of idle, cosseted and overpaid quasi-civil servants who have no regard for the public they serve this is true also of UK state run institutions of which BNFL are already an example.

We have a problem in the UK in that we need to invest in new nuclear power stations if only because given that the Green morons won't let us build coal stations, nuclear is the only option that won't cause us to suffer brown-outs and power cuts in the next few years.

It's probably already too late but at least EDF has the expertise to actually build and operate a modern nuclear plant. I suspect that the UK no longer has that skill.

Anonymous said...

You suspect that the UK no longer has that skill?

Yes, because over the last 30-40 years our manufacturing base has been trashed, meanwhile American, French and German companies have been 'cheating' in that they are either directly owned by their respective governments or are given massive government contracts which basically act as a subsidy.
Our industry is driven to the wall making us vulnerable to these pirates.

I am all for the freemarket, but thats not whats going on here.

tolkein says we could just take over anytime we want...
With what? our arms industry has been sold off as well.

What makes the whole thing worse is that the government is rubbing its hands excitedly about this 4 billion windfall its going to get out of the deal, well how long do you think its gonna take them to waste that?
Net result, the British people end up without a Nuclear industry and without any money as well!

Anonymous said...

and I've no doubt the headline would have been:
"French Government Takes Control of Britain's Nuclear Industry"
if the Tories had been in power at the time of the deal, its times like this the bias is at its most obvious.

Anonymous said...

I was supprised at the blanket condemnation in BBC HYS, people maybe starting to wake-up, problem is its too late.
The damage Labour has done would take generations to sort out.

Anonymous said...

Here you go, Video of Britain opening the worlds first commercial nuclear power station:
Link
Its 11:05 mins in

How far we've fallen.

Malthebof said...

A good posting Laban. Three things a National government should ensure above all else 1 A secure country 2 Secure food supplies 3 Secure energy.
This government fails on all accounts.