Treasury Minister and former Goldman Sachs Chief Economist, Jim O’Neill, is considering quitting government because of Theresa May’s new approach to China.
May’s China stance was revealed by the way she handled plans for a new Hinkley Point nuclear plant.
Lord O’Neill was one of the major parts of the Treasury introduced by George Osborne to help build the UK’s relations with China and work on new infrastructure plans.
In 2001, he coined the phrase “Brics” to describe the leading emerging economies of the world – Brazil, Russia, India and China.
With concerns mounting in Beijing that it may not be welcome to invest in British nuclear power plants anymore, along with tensions that remain in Mrs May’s new ministerial team, Lord O’Neill has reportedly said that he will quit the government in September unless the new Prime Minister can persuade him to stay on.
One source close to O’Neill said that he could not understand the government’s change of heart on China: “He’s considering why he has been asked to stay,” they said.
O’Neill says that May did not warn him about her intention to put the £18 billion project on hold as Beijing had planned to invest £6 billion in the scheme which it sees as a step toward building its own British nuclear power station.
It has also been suggested that O’Neill came close to leaving the government last week but chose not to for the sake of persuading world leaders at a G20 summit early next month to act on his report on tackling drug resistant “superbugs.”
Mr Osborne gave O’Neill free rein to court investment from China and last year said that Britain had to “get over one of its perpetual problems of being a fair weather friend.”
O’Neill also led the development of Mr Osborne’s “Northern Powerhouse” project, including selling schemes in the north to Chinese investors.