President Donald Trump has issued a stiff warning to the UK not to allow foreign interference in British projects, as the US looks to bolster its national security efforts amid increasing tensions with China.
Trump yesterday warned that the US could block foreign buyers from purchasing Anglo-American satellite business Oneweb amid mounting national security concerns directed at China.
The collapsed satellite firm has attracted intense international interest ahead of its auction next week, including rumoured bids from Chinese companies.
The UK government is thought to have entered a £500m bid for 20 per cent of the company as part of a consortium of private investors.
Businesses in the UK are “white-listed” under US law, meaning they are allowed to buy minority stakes in sensitive companies without raising national security concerns. However, Trump yesterday announced that the US will open a committee review if any members of the UK-led consortium are from non-white-listed nations.
The move could sabotage the UK’s hopes of developing a sovereign space-based navigation system, after Britain was booted off the EU’s Galileo satellite project as a result of Brexit.
The UK’s bid for Oneweb, which has its global headquarters in the UK but substantial operations in Florida, is said to have been commandeered by the Prime Minister’s top adviser Dominic Cummings, who is reportedly keen to level up the UK’s space exploration efforts.
However, UK Space Agency employees have warned the government that the GPS firm’s systems are inaccurate and could be susceptible to interference from anti-satellite weapons.
It comes as Trump yesterday warned Japanese industrial giant Hitachi against selling a Welsh-based power project to China, as tensions between Washington and Beijing continue to escalate.
Hitachi last year halted a sale of the Anglesey project after Westminster delayed signing off a support package. The board is set to make a decision on the project by September, but has warned that it may sell to foreign investors in the absence of MP support.
China General Nuclear (CGN) is keen to scoop up the site as part of plans to roll out a fleet of nuclear reactors in the UK, the Times reported.
Beijing’s nuclear power investments in the UK, which include Somerset’s Hinkley Point C power station, have joined discussions over Huawei in becoming a sore point in the trade war between the US and China.
Industry figures have warned that Britain cannot meet its 2050 net-zero emissions target without new power plants, as most of the country’s existing stations are set to shutter over the next 10 years.
But international leaders have cautioned that allowing China to build new nuclear plants in the UK could pose fresh national security concerns.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, accused China of using “coercive bullying tactics” earlier this month after Beijing officials warned the UK that reversing a decision on Huawei could undermine China’s nuclear efforts in Britain.