The chief executive of French energy giant EDF today insisted its multibillion-pound plans for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point would not be affected if the UK votes to leave the EU.
Vincent de Rivaz also expressed confidence the project would go ahead despite a new delay to the final investment decision.
He confirmed the finance had been secured, claiming no other project had been better prepared.
But he refused to give even an earliest date for a final decision, which will not be made until the conclusion of a consultation with the firm’s works council.
Mr de Rivaz made the remarks as he answered questions at a Commons energy and climate change committee meeting in Westminster.
Tory MP Dan Poulter asked about the potential impact of a British exit from the EU on the future of the £18billion Somerset development.
Mr de Rivaz pointed to the presence of UK government ministers on both sides of the argument, using Energy Secretary Amber Rudd and Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom as an example.
He added: “It means that Hinkley Point C is needed whatever the result of the EU referendum. You will need it for 60 years and you will have it for 60 years.
“HPC is needed for the country, the policy of decarbonisation, the policy for securing supply … the policy of partnership with France, with China.
“All these elements are not dependent, in my view, on the result of the EU referendum.”
Asked about the view of the unions, he replied: “In the discussions I have had with them, in all the documents they have put forward, this is not the issue.”
It emerged last month that the final investment decision had been postponed to allow time for the works council consultation, despite previous assurances one would be taken by early May.
Mr de Rivaz told the committee the project finance was in place and stressed the “advisory” nature of the council’s opinion.
The unions had threatened legal action if they were not allowed to give their views on the project.
Some have called for a delay of two to three years, claiming this would reduce the risk to the firm as it embarks on such a big project.
But Mr de Rivaz said: “Our position is that there is no need for delay because the project is ready. No project has been better prepared than HPC.
“We don’t have the luxury to delay it … We can’t afford to keep the UK waiting.”
He said the support from Chinese partner CGN was “as strong as ever” and described the support of the French state – an EDF majority shareholder – as “also very strong”.
The consultation started on May 2 and could take 60 days to complete.
Mr de Rivaz would not speculate on a date for the final investment decision, saying he did not want to prejudge the consultation’s outcome.
He said after that the chairman would present Hinkley Point C to the board, which would then make its decision.
Concluding his evidence, Mr de Rivaz vowed EDF would not “give up” on the project and insisted a final investment decision would be “very rapid” after the 60-day consultation.
Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom, who also appeared before the committee, said the UK Government was “fully confident” HPC would go ahead.
She said there was no cost to UK billpayers until Hinkley begins producing electricity, dismissing the notion of a “blank cheque”.
The minister also told MPs it was right that EDF wanted to consult its workforce.