Energy minister says there is ‘no need’ for a transition period to be ‘enshrined in legislation’

The government has defeated a Labour bid to ensure the UK continues to be covered by Euratom for an two years before Britain is forced to withdraw from the pan-EU nuclear safeguarding regime by Brexit.

Shadow energy shadow minister Alan Whitehead moved an amendment on Tuesday (14 November) to the Nuclear Safeguarding Bill, which is principally designed to bolster the safeguarding roles and responsibilities of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), to postpone Britain’s withdrawal from Euratom by two years, pushing out the Euratom trasnition period beyond the UK’s formal withdrawal from the EU.

Under Labour’s amendment, the full benefits and responsibilities of Euratom membership would continue to apply during the proposed transition period, including payments.

Whitehead told MPs, who were debating the bill’s detailed scrutiny committee stage, that a transition period would ensure that the UK’s nuclear safeguarding arrangements were fully up and running if and when Britain eventually left Euratom.

Mina Golshan, deputy director of the ONR, has previously warned MPs that the agency cannot guarantee that it will be able to replicate Euratom’s safeguarding arrangements in time for the UK’s planned in March 2019 EU withdrawal date.

Whitehead denied that having a transition period would duplicate resources between Euratom and the ONR.

He said: “The idea of a transition period would be, among other things, to give greater scope for precisely that sort of recruitment, training and other arrangements to take place, so that the new regime is assuredly in place by the time we leave Euratom—assuming we do.

“The transitional period would be used for the purpose of making sure those final arrangements were in place

“Unless a series of magical events occur, and everything is completely and easily in place before March 2019, I cannot see anything other than good things coming out of a transition period.

“Having a transition period to add to our insurance and to make the new regime work seems eminently sensible.

But Richard Harrington, energy minister, said there was no need for a transition period to be enshrined in legislation.

He said: “I am certain and satisfied that we can do the necessary recruitment and make the necessary agreements…but actually within the time period required.”

“It is our full intention and belief that we will be able to achieve that.”

The Labour amendment was defeated.