The UK government’s negotiations with the EU over its departure from the Euratom nuclear co-operation regime have stalled over the regulation of supply contracts, a senior civil servant has revealed.
David Wagstaff, deputy director of Euratom exit at BEIS (business, energy and industrial strategy) department, told the Nuclear 2017 conference this morning that the negotiations over the UK’s separation from Euratom were largely going smoothly.
He said that the government had not been able to make progress on the future framework on supply contracts because the EU regarded this as an issue about future relationships, which it wants to delay until the second phase of talks after the UK’s divorce terms have been agreed.
Wagstaf said: “It doesn’t signal a huge falling out with the EU, it signals in their view that it’s not a separation issue but a future relationship issue so they won’t talk about it yet.”
But he said the government was keen to ensure that supply contracts arrangements would be “right at the top of the agenda” when discussions about the UK’s future relationship with Euratom commenced.
And Wagstaf added that agreement had been secured on the three other key areas in the discussions: the future ownership of Euratom’s inspectors and equipment in the UK, special fissile materials and spent fuels and radioactive waste.
“Negotiations are going well, it’s not a battle,” he told the conference. “Both parties can see obvious benefits to new nuclear arrangements to replace existing ones.
“The aim is a common, mutual benefit so we don’t see any great falling out and we are confident that these things will be delivered regardless of the negotiations going on in Brussels.”
He also said that negotiations were proceeding with key nuclear partners like the US and Japan.
Wagstaff said that progress on the government’s Euratom exit bill was unlikely to be as “serene” as it had been so far due to other pressures on Parliamentary time.
However energy minister Richard Harrington had said in the previous session that he hoped to secure a date soon for the next stage in the bill’s passage with a view to securing Royal Assent early in the new year, which would ensure sufficient time for the regulations to be put in place for a nuclear safeguarding regime if the UK was unable to secure a new arrangement with Euratom.