The government wants nuclear safeguarding to be included in the UK’s post-Brexit transition arrangements, Greg Clark has announced.
The business and energy secretary updated Parliament yesterday on the government’s progress on Britain’s withdrawal from Euratom, the Europe-wide treaty that governs the safeguarding of nuclear materials and labour.
The government has said that the UK is quitting Euratom, which is the basis for the UK’s nuclear relationships with the rest of the world as well as the EU, alongside the trading bloc in 2019.
The written statement from Clark included a pledge that prime minister Theresa May’s proposed implementation period, during which existing trading arrangements and security measures will be maintained, would cover Euratom.
He said the exact nature of the period will be subject to forthcoming negotiations.
Clark also promised that the government will listen to the nuclear industry when shaping its new immigration regime.
He said the government would ensure nuclear businesses and the communities that rely on the industry, would have the opportunity to contribute views before any decisions are made about the UK’s post-Brexit immigration rules.
And Clark said the UK was about to begin the next phase of its discussions about withdrawal from Euratom, which will focus on the future relationship between the two.
He said that the government would consider a potential role for Euratom in helping to establish the UK’s own domestic safeguards regime, which he added should mirror the wider European framework. The first phase of the talks, which cover the UK’s separation from Euratom, had made “good progress”.
The government is currently pushing a Nuclear Safeguards Bill through Parliament, designed to establish a new domestic nuclear safeguarding regime.
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said the secretary of state’s statement was a “useful and welcome step”.
He said: “The UK industry and research facilities have been consistently clear with government about the importance of these issues since the referendum, and given the complex nature of multilateral agreements that will need to be negotiated, the recognition of the necessity of transitional arrangements and the desire for a close future association with Euratom is welcome.
“Even with a suitable transition, there remains much work for the government to do to prevent the significant disruption that industry is concerned about.
“There is much still to do in equipping the UK’s regulator to take on Euratom’s safeguarding activities; agreeing a voluntary offer with the IAEA; negotiating and ratifying new bilateral Nuclear Co-operation Agreements with the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan and others; agreeing new trading arrangements with the Euratom community and concluding a new funding agreement for the UK to continue its world-leading work in Euratom’s fusion R&D activities. It is vital government continues to prioritise these issues in the period ahead if there is to be a successful outcome.”