The white paper, which was published earlier today (Thursday), says the government is “considering all options for the UK’s future relationship with the EU on energy.”
The document adds that the government is particularly keen to avoid disruption to the all-Ireland single electricity market, which covers both the north of the island and the republic.
In its recent submission to the ongoing inquiry into the impact of EU withdrawal on the energy market, which is currently being carried out by the BEIS (business, energy and industrial strategy) committee, the government said it wants to maintain “efficient, cross-border trading of energy”.
However today’s white paper reaffirms the UK government’s decision to exit the Euratom Treaty, which provides the legal framework for civil nuclear power generation across the EU.
The treaty covers the arrangements for nuclear safety and the movement and trade of nuclear materials both between Euratom members as well as with third countries such as the US.
The government’s move was outlined in a footnote to the bill, which received its first Parliamentary reading last night. The bill will allow the UK to serve the Article 50 notice triggering the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The government has decided to quit Euratom because participation in the treaty would mean the UK remaining subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, which prime minister Theresa May has promised to end.
The paper says the precise nature of the relationship with Euratom will be a matter for the EU withdrawal negotiations. But it also says that cooperation with the rest of the EU on nuclear matters will be an “important priority for the UK”.
“The nuclear industry remains of key strategic importance to the UK and leaving Euratom does not affect our clear aim of seeking to maintain close and effective arrangements for civil nuclear cooperation, safeguards, safety and trade with Europe and our international partners,” reads the white paper.
The government’s decision to Euratom has sparked fears that nuclear investment in the UK will be destabilised .