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Theresa May declares 'golden era' with China despite Hinkley Point fallout

Theresa May and her chancellor, Philip Hammond, headed to the G20 summit from Heathrow Airport. Credit: PA

Prime Minister Theresa May has looked to play down any Chinese disgruntlement over her decision to delay the Hinkley Point project, declaring it a "golden era" in Britain's relations with China.

Mrs May said she was heading to the G20 summit with the ambition for Britain to be a global leader in the free trade market after Brexit.

The Prime Minister wants to use her first major global summit to show the UK remains "dependable" in the wake of the EU referendum result but faces potential awkwardness over the delayed Hinkley power station project.

Theresa May is not expected to discuss the Hinkley Point project with the Chinese president. Credit: PA

Although she will be holding face-to-face talks with Chinese president Xi Jinping, she is not expected to use it to announce a decision on the Hinkley, which is backed by Beijing's state-owned nuclear firm.

This is a golden era for UK-China relations and one of the things I will be doing at the G20 is obviously talking to President Xi about how we can develop the strategic partnership that we have between the UK and China.

The message for the G20 is that Britain is open for business as a bold, confident, outward-looking country and we will be playing a key role on the world stage. My ambition is that Britain will be a global leader in free trade.

– Prime Minister Theresa May

Mrs May will have a meeting with President Xi on Monday after the conclusion of the two-day summit in Hangzhou.

What is the next step for the delayed Hinkley project?

The Hinkley Point C power station project has been delayed by the government Credit: Reuters

A decision on whether the project in Somerset will go ahead is expected this month, but UK officials indicated it would not be announced at the meeting with the Chinese leader, fuelling speculation it may be scrapped or altered.

"We have set out the Government's approach to Hinkley, we are currently considering all the component parts of that," a UK source told the Press Association.

"We have said we will make a decision this month, that remains the plan. I don't expect one in the next few days and I don't expect our Chinese or French partners are expecting one in the next few days."

French energy giant EDF, with support from China General Nuclear, had expected to build the £18 billion plant, but Mrs May delayed making a final decision on the project.

The decision on Hinkley Point has major diplomatic implications for relations between the UK, France and China - even more so since the UK is seeking a new role on the world stage following a vote for Brexit.