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Kwarteng blocks £1.2 billion undersea cable project backed by Tory sponsors

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has rejected a controversial £1.2 billion undersea cable project backed by two former Soviet-born tycoons who have given £1.5 million to the Conservatives. British rights.

Aquind, the company behind plans to build a 148-mile undersea power cable connecting the French and British grids, said it would consider the request for a judicial review.

The decision was made at ministerial level after the government appointed the scheme, which has the capacity to import enough electricity to meet up to 5% of the UK’s needs, an “important infrastructure project”. national importance” four years ago.

The decision was greeted with jubilation by local rivals in Portsmouth, where the cable car will come ashore. The project will require major works to divert connections along one of the three main routes into the city.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the city council’s Liberal Democrat leader, said the plan was a “really stupid idea”, adding: “Everybody knows you work on a ( main road) and the whole city will stop”.

Current and planned UK connections

In a statement, Kwarteng noted that the plan would have negative effects on a “very densely populated” urban area. Inspectors found the project could harm the Fort Cumberland Scheduled Memorial and a Grade II-listed cottage as well as several sports fields. It could also delay work on a coastal defense plan.

The UK’s grid is planning to expand its reliance on connectors, as part of its plan to reach 100% clean electricity by 2035. Connectors with France, Belgium and Norway already have provides around 10% of the UK’s electricity – a figure that could double by 2026 with four more under construction or development.

Aquind argues that its connected system will help the UK meet its “zero net” climate target as well as reduce energy bills in a spiral. The plan will include a big data pipeline containing 180 pairs of fiber optic cables for use by companies such as banks, technology companies and telcos.

Commerce Secretary Penny Mordaunt – a local MP – wrote in a December submission that the project would have “an extremely disturbing impact on our security” as France could easily cut off energy supplies to Britain, in connection with threats from Paris last year. in the post-Brexit fishing rights dispute.

Aquind’s co-owners are all British citizens but were born in the former Soviet Union. Viktor Fedotov is a Russian-born oil magnate, while Alexander Temerko is a former Ukrainian-born arms executive and one-time director of the Russian oil company Yukos.

Alexander Temerko, co-owner of Aquind
Alexander Temerko, co-owner of Aquind © Simon Dawson / Bloomberg

Temerko was on Yukos’ board before it was taken over by the Kremlin, then he moved to Britain in 2004 and became a British citizen in 2011. He has publicly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin over his conflict in Ukraine. However, he did talk about his connection to another high-ranking Kremlin figure, security council secretary Nikolai Patrushev.

Fedotov previously controlled a separate company that had been a contractor on a major oil pipeline project in the mid-2000s for Transneft, Russia’s state pipeline monopoly, according to a Guardian and BBC reports as part of the Pandora Papers offshore leaks.

Stephen Morgan, Labor MP for Portsmouth South, described the decision as a “victory for the people of Portsmouth” after years of precariousness and “Tory cronyism.”

The Conservative Party has received a total of £1.5 million in donations from Aquind – jointly owned by the two tycoons – and from Temerko himself and a company linked to him called ONG. Funds have gone to 33 MPs or their local constituency parties.

Jeremy Hunt, a former leadership candidate, received £72,500 from Aquind. Other recipients include cabinet ministers such as prime minister Rishi Sunak (£5,000 for his Richmond constituency) and Treasury chief secretary Simon Clarke (£20,000).

Lord Callanan, who is now junior business minister, served as Aquind’s non-executive director from 2016 to 2017. He has been rehired from this week’s decision.

Additional reporting by Max Seddon in Moscow

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