Portsmouth MP calls for 'halt' to Aquind interconnector after France threatens to cut power to Jersey

CALLS have been made to halt the Aquind project over the ‘sinister threat’ by France to cut power to Jersey.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 7:00 am
Penny Mordaunt. Picture: Habibur Rahman

MP Penny Mordaunt wants the £1.2bn project stopped after a French minister yesterday threatened to take the drastic measure in a row over fishing.

If approved the Aquind interconnector would bring power from the continent to Britain via undersea cables, coming ashore at Eastney, Portsmouth and running north to Lovedean.

Portsmouth North MP Ms Mordaunt has written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng - who will make the decision on the plans - saying they should be stopped.

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Speaking to The News, Ms Mordaunt said: ‘Recent events are further evidence that the interconnector is not in our national interest.

‘It will make us less resilient, it’s a strategic error and it potentially will undermine further negotiations that we may wish to have with the EU and certainly member states.’

Ms Mordaunt said the threat made by France’s maritime minister Annick Girardin was ‘sinister’.

Royal Navy offshore patrol vessels HMS Tamar and HMS Severn were deployed on Thursday to the Channel Islands as 100 fishing boats were set to protest at Jersey – prompting fears of a blockade.

French fishing vessels Picture: Gary Grimshaw/Bailiwick Express/PA Wire

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Jersey Electricity warned that 95 per cent of its power comes from undersea cables from France.

Aquind said if built, its interconnector could transmit five per cent of Britain’s total annual electricity consumption - enough for five million homes.

In her letter, Ms Mordaunt, who opposed Aquind in the public examination by the Planning Inspectorate, said: ‘It will be argued that the EU could not stop a French energy company selling to the UK, but increasing our dependence on French nuclear increases the likelihood it will become politicised and involved in any future discussions, in particular on fishing.

‘To do so seems a bad idea and one I am sure UK fishermen would not support.’

The row started after the island implemented new requirements under the terms of the UK-EU trade deal for boats to submit evidence of their past fishing activities in order to receive a licence to carry on operating in Jersey waters.

Ms Girardin told French parliament ‘retaliatory measures’ could be taken, including cutting power to the Crown dependencies.

Aquind and its director Alexander Temerko have made donations to the Conservative Party and MPs, prompting Labour to say there is a ‘serious conflict of interest’.

This is because Mr Kwarteng will make the decision on granting or refusing the development consent order for Aquind’s plans.

Aquind was asked for comment on how it would handle any potential future order by French authorities to cut power to Britain.

A spokesman for Aquind said: ‘Aquind Interconnector is currently at permitting stage in the UK and France.

‘France is a reliable energy partner for the UK, as demonstrated by decades of co-operation between the two countries on IFA and IFA2 interconnectors and by an important role EDF plays in the UK energy market Aquind is committed to building an interconnector to France.

‘Once operational Aquind Interconnector will significantly contribute to decarbonisation objectives of France, UK and EU.

‘It will help better integrate renewable generation of both countries and will provide essential services to both power grids.’

History of Aquind’s plans in Portsmouth

OPPOSITION to the Aquind plans have grown apace in the near four years they were first publicly discussed.

In 2017 the company first revealed its ambition to bring undersea cables ashore from France at Eastney.

Then city council leader Donna Jones initially said the cable would be ‘essential’ while Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said it shouldn’t cause many problems. Both now oppose the plans.

But a furore erupted over the plans to rip up the Eastern Road to install the cables, which now will include a fibre optic communications element.

The company changed some of its route to avoid this, but will still go alongside the road, and through Milton Common and Farlington Playing Fields.

In 2018 some 1,500 residents were left in fear of losing their homes when Aquind sent out land questionnaires asking about mortgages and people’s interest in land.

Grassroots campaigns Let’s Stop Aquind last year joined political opposition to the plans. Campaigners fear disruption at Milton allotments, but the firm said there would be none.

Both Portsmouth MPs, Stephen Morgan and Penny Mordaunt, are unhappy with the bid.

The company’s bid for a development consent order has been examined by a panel from the Planning Inspectorate, and will be decided upon by the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

Landowners who face their rights being infringed have also resisted compulsory acquisition.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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