MPs warn that hasty Brexit puts British nuclear energy at risk as unions hold Hinkley nuclear strike vote

The British Government has left the UK nuclear industry at risk and must act urgently to ensure its continued operation post-Brexit, according to MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

In a report published today, they warn that any interval between the UK leaving the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and entering into secure alternative arrangements would severely inhibit nuclear trade and research and threaten power supplies.

The Government argues that the UK must leave Euratom as a result of the triggering of Article 50, but the report states that legal opinion is divided.

The Committee says withdrawal from Euratom is an unfortunate, and perhaps unforeseen, consequence of Prime Minister’s objective of ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK. Ministers must end the uncertainty and resolve the matter by securing alternative arrangements as urgently as possible, the report adds.

The Committee notes strong concerns in the sector that new arrangements will take longer than two years to set up and recommends delaying departure from Euratom to give the industry more time to establish alternative arrangements. If this is not possible, the Government should seek transitional arrangements, which may need to be longer than the three years proposed by the European parliament.

Iain Wright MP, Chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, said: “The impact of Brexit on Euratom has not been thought through. The Government has failed to consider the potentially severe ramifications of its Brexit objectives for the nuclear industry. Ministers must act as urgently as possible. The repercussions of failing to do so are huge.  The continued operations of the UK nuclear industry are at risk.

“The Prime Minister has made it politically unfeasible to remain in Euratom long term. The Government now has a responsibility to end the uncertainty hanging over the industry and ensure robust and stable arrangements to protect trade, boost research and development, and ensure safeguarding of the highest level.”

Tom Greatrex
Tom Greatrex

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “The UK nuclear industry has made it crystal clear to the Government that it needs to be working on replacement arrangements for Euratom and discussing a transitional period now, to prevent the cliff edge the Select Committee’s report warns against.

“The BEIS Committee, and today’s House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report, makes a number of sensible, pragmatic and realistic recommendations to prevent disruption, which the NIA welcomes.

“The Government needs to take those on board and get on with serious discussion to ensure robust alternative arrangements are set up, in a realistic timeframe, to minimise disruption to the UK’s nuclear industry both at home and in European markets. This extends to the funding the UK receives for its fusion projects and we welcome the Committees recommendation to maintain existing research co-operation with the EU.”

Meanwhile, a nuclear strike is looming at Hinkley Point as the GMB and Unite trade unions today start balloting members in an industrial dispute over pay.

Construction of the £18 billion nuclear reactor could now be delayed pending the outcome of the strike vote among the 700-strong workforce.

 

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