The energy minister has signaled that he is open to continuing involvement by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the oversight of nuclear co-operation with the EU after the UK leaves the EU.
Richard Harrington, giving evidence to the House of Commons BEIS (business, energy and industrial strategy) select committee’s investigation into the UK civil nuclear sector post-Brexit, confirmed that the government was aiming for the “closest possible relationship” with Euratom.
Pressed on whether this could involve an ongoing relationship with the ECJ, the oversight of which is opposed by many opponents of the UK’s EU membership, he said: “I am sure there is a sensible solution that may involve the ECJ and other parties. I hope that consensus can be agreed: anything is open to negotiation.
“We cannot stay in Euratom but we hope to get the closest possible relationship we can,” he said, adding that it would be sensible for the UK’s nuclear arrangements to remain close to the EU during the transition period following the UK’s departure from the EU.
David Wagstaff, head of Euratom exit negotiations at BEIS, told the committee that the UK had made “rapid progress” in its negotiations with Canadian, Japanese, US and Australian government about establishing post-Brexit nuclear co-operation agreements.
He said that it was not in the interests of the UK or its key nuclear partners for these negotiations to be unsuccessful. “We know the clock is ticking and we want to get on with it.”