11/01/2018 15:26 GMT | Updated 11/01/2018 21:43 GMT

UK To Seek ‘Close Association’ With Euratom Post-Brexit

The Government is aiming to maintain its role in European nuclear research after leaving the body responsible for regulating the industry across the continent, it has been announced.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said the Government will seek a “close association” with Euratom as the next phase of Brexit discussions focus on the UK’s future relationship with the organisation.

Euratom, set up in 1957, is responsible for regulating the nuclear industry across the continent, disposing of waste, safeguarding the transport of nuclear materials, the mobility of workers in the sector, and carrying out nuclear research and development.

In a written Parliamentary statement, Mr Clark said the Government wanted continuity with current Euratom arrangements.

He said: “Our strategy is based on the following principles:

:: to aim for continuity with current relevant Euratom arrangements;

:: to ensure that the UK maintains its leading role in European nuclear research;

:: to ensure the nuclear industry in the UK has the necessary skilled workforce covering decommissioning, ongoing operation of existing facilities and new build projects; and

:: to ensure that on 29 March 2019 the UK has the necessary measures in place to ensure that the nuclear industry can continue to operate.”

A Government spokesman said: “The Nuclear Safeguards Bill will help secure the future of the UK’s nuclear industry and our high standards of nuclear safeguards once we leave Euratom.

“We are bringing forward the UK’s first new nuclear power plants in a generation and it is in our mutual benefit to maintain the successful working relationship we have now with Europe, and the rest of the world, on nuclear matters.

“This is what we will be looking to secure in negotiations with our partners.”

Sue Ferns, deputy general secretary of the Prospect union, said: “This announcement is a welcome realisation by ministers that we need a pragmatic solution on Euratom in order to protect jobs, research and investment in Britain’s nuclear sector after Brexit.

“No-one voted for Brexit to leave the highly successful Euratom arrangements.

“Now Government must work quickly to be able to provide much more detail on the future in their next statement in three months’ time.”

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, 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.”