Government should delay departure from Euratom after Brexit

2nd May 2017

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Adaptation ,
  • Mitigation ,
  • Reporting ,
  • Carbon Trading


Paul J Anderson

Power supplies, nuclear trade and research could be at risk if the government does not establish alternative arrangements to membership of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), MPs have warned.

Euratom promotes the growth of the nuclear industry, ensures safety standards and funds research and development. A common market enabling free movement of nuclear professionals, materials, equipment and investment exists alongside it.

The UK joined Euratom along with the European Economic Community in 1973. The government has argued that membership of the EU and Eurotom are legally entwined, therefore Brexit means that it must leave both.

However, MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee pointed in its latest report that legal opinion on this point was divided. Rupert Cowen, a nuclear energy specialist at law firm Prospect Law, told the committee that the government’s aim to leave Euratom was political rather than legal, caused by the requirement for members to be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The government has stated that the UK would no longer be subject to the court after leaving the EU.

Representatives of the nuclear industry expressed strong concerns in evidence to the committee that new arrangements would take longer than two years to establish. Ministers have been unable to allay these fears, the report notes.

Any gap between ceasing to be a member of Euratom and the entry into force of new arrangements could severely inhibit nuclear trade and research cooperation, MPs said. A temporary extension to membership of Euratom would allow time for a new system to be put in place, they concluded.

The committee’s report states that leaving Euratom seems to be ‘an unfortunate, and perhaps unforeseen, consequence of the prime minister’s decision to leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Safeguarding nuclear energy is a public policy area with a unique level of risk and therefore requires a robust legal regime.’

In the longer term, the UK would need to establish alternative arrangements for inspections of nuclear plants to ensure that materials are not being diverted for military use, which is a requirement for international trade and research, the report notes.

Although the UK would still be a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which governs inspections alongside the European body, these are mostly carried out by Euratom officials. The UK’s Office for Responsibility would need extra budget to cover the resources needed to perform inspections. MPs noted that Euratom’s total safeguards budget was around €23.1 million in 2015, with around a quarter of staff time spent on inspecting UK installations.

The committee also recommended that the government should:

  • clarify its long-term objectives for climate change policy and publish the clean growth plan, which has been delayed since the end of 2016;
  • mirror or retain European standards on energy efficiency to avoid the UK becoming a dumping ground for inefficient products;
  • retain membership of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) until at least 2020, a position backed by an international trading organisation last week.

Several other select committee reports covering energy and environment issues were published in the lead-up to tomorrow’s dissolution of parliament:

  • The Environmental Audit Committee called on the government to urgently provide certainty to the UK chemicals industry over future regulation. UK companies will have spent an estimated £250m to comply with the next registration deadline under EU chemical regulation REACH in May 2018, yet have received no guarantees over whether these registrations will be valid after the UK leaves the EU. Trade body the Chemical Business Association told the committee that one in five of its member companies are considering registering elsewhere in the EU, which could cost jobs and investment in the UK.
  • The Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Committee has criticised the government’s weak policies on sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS), which it claims have led to far too few schemes going ahead on new developments, and that where they have been installed the quality is poor. Planning rules should be strengthened to ensure that all new developments are required to install high-quality SuDS, with the potential for developers to opt out on cost grounds reduced. The automatic right of new developments to connect surface water discharges to conventional sewerage systems should be ended, so that developers are encouraged to come up with sustainable alternatives, the committee said.
  • The Public Accounts Committee concluded in a report that the Treasury had undue influence on the government’s energy policy and that weaknesses in the design of the government’s competition for the first large-scale carbon capture and storage project contributed to the decision to withdraw a £1bn capital grant from the programme in 2015.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Weather damage insurance claims hit record high

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

The Scottish government has today conceded that its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 is now “out of reach” following analysis by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

18th April 2024

Read more

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close