Government confirms Euratom exit plans

Position paper published just days before negotiations start

The government has resisted pressure to backtrack on its plans to withdraw from Euratom by confirming that it plans to press ahead with exit from the pan-European nuclear body.

The Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) published its position paper today (13 July) setting out the UK’s priorities in the upcoming negotiations with the Euratom Community, which is currently responsible for nuclear safeguarding arrangements.

The negotiations are due to start on Monday, energy minister Richard Harrington revealed yesterday in a Parliamentary debate on Euratom.

MPs, including several Conservative backbenchers, lined up at the specially convened debate to oppose the UK’s withdrawal.

The paper states that the priority areas for negotiations will be trade, nuclear research and development, regulatory and wider cooperation, and the future mobility of nuclear workers and researchers.

It says the UK is keen to discuss these issues “as quickly as possible”, in order to establish a close working relationship between the UK and Euratom.

The paper says the UK will ensure that its new nuclear safeguarding regime complies with its International Atomic Energy Agency obligations.

Responding to Dexeu’s announcement, Tom Greatrex, Nuclear Industry Association chief executive, said that the position paper was very short on detail.

“The UK Government’s position paper demonstrates the complexity of replicating Euratom arrangements in UK regulation and co-operation agreements with third countries which the industry has warned of,” said Greatrex.

“Government must therefore make the need for transitional arrangements its starting point in negotiations. Failure to do so will risk precisely the disruption the government state they want to avoid.

“It remains the UK nuclear industry’s view that retaining Euratom membership will best serve the national interest. It may also be the most straightforward, seamless and sensible way to achieve the government’s stated preferred outcome is through the associated membership the Euratom treaty enables. Exploring that should be a priority in discussions with European institutions.

“The government has also said it wishes to provide ‘certainty and clarity’ to industry. Given the lack of clarity to date, it is imperative now that the government ensures there is regular and ongoing dialogue with industry so there is a full appreciation of the practical, logistical and administrative consequences of these negotiations,” he added.