Britain plans to open up new powers to cease offers that threaten nationwide safety

© Reuters. Weekly government cabinet meeting in London

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will step in to block acquisitions and business deals that threaten national security, the government said on Wednesday, releasing details of new laws covering potentially sensitive sectors such as defense and energy.

The National Security and Investment Act will give ministers new powers to screen and intervene "malicious" foreign investment, removing longstanding concerns that some businesses may compromise security or critical infrastructure.

"Hostile actors should have no doubts – there is no back door to Britain," said Economy Secretary Alok Sharma.

"This bill will mean that we can continue to welcome job-creating investments on our shores while we can exclude those who could endanger the security of the British people."

Earlier this year, ministers blocked Chinese communications company Huawei over concerns about spying on parts of its communications network. In 2016, the UK delayed a nuclear power project in England over concerns about Chinese government funding.

Both episodes were criticized by Beijing but highlighted increasing caution about threats to national security and doubts about existing laws that leave limited scope for government intervention.

The United States and Australia recently improved their supervisory powers.

The new law will ask companies to seek approval for potential deals – from acquisitions to sales of assets and intellectual property – that affect a number of sectors, such as: B. Defense energy and transport or artificial intelligence and encryption.

The government said the vast majority of these transactions would be approved without intervention and sought to address concerns about creating barriers to investment with promising decisions within 30 days.

The laws would explicitly state that national security is the only reason for intervention.

Companies that fail to comply could be fined and executives jailed. Any transaction for which notification is deemed mandatory will be void if the procedures are not followed.

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