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Brexit could sink major public projects, warns NAO chief

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The UK’s decision to leave the EU leaves a question mark over public projects like Hinkley Point C, Heathrow expansion and HS2, according to the chief of the National Audit Office (NAO)

Amvas Morse, head of Whitehall’s spending watching dog, has told The Guardian that Brexit had created a public funding ‘emergency’ and that it would not be ‘sustainable’ for the government to continue to back major projects as before.

He suggested that the government should decide which plans to suspend or cancel, sooner rather than later.

Morse singled out a number of major projects, including Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, a third runway at Heathrow and HS2 as well as casting doubt over the future of the Northern Powerhouse.’

He told The Guardian: ‘It’s a tidal wave coming up the beach. It is an emergency. If we don’t get it right, it will affect our economy and standards of life in this country.

‘To say we are going to carry on and do everything we did before – I just don’t think that’s going to be sustainable.’

Last month, the NAO warned that HS2 could be delayed by up to a year, as well as being over-budget. 

In addition Morse said there should be a reassessment of the Palace of Westminster’s £7billion refurbishment, Crossrail 2 and previous chancellor George Osborne’s northern powerhouse strategy.

Morse said: ‘We need to ask ourselves, can the public sector deliver Hinkley Point C, a third runway, HS2, a Northern Powerhouse, nuclear decommissioning, Trident renewal and restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster all at the same time?’

He added: ’You are going to have to rein in projects … and say, what is the benefit? How damaging is it not to have it for a period of time? Can we afford it?’

However, according to The AJ’s sister-publication Construction News, EDF looks set to approve its final investment decision for Hinkley Point C next week. In statement, it said the move would see the first concrete reactor completed by mid-2019. If built, it will provide 7 per cent of the country’s electricity by 2025.


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