In its last report before it was dissolved for the General Election the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee has criticised the Government for threatening the future of the nuclear industry through not thinking through its Brexit policies properly. The report calls for the Government to ensure it has replacement agreements in place for Euratom before the UK leaves in order to prevent major disruption for the industry which could jeopardise power supplies. It also calls for the UK to stay in the European Emissions Trading System until at least 2020 and maintain access to the Internal Energy Market.
In the longer term, MPs are concerned that the UK will become a ‘rule taker’, complying with but unable to influence European rules and standards, although this is an issue with Brexit for most sectors.
On Euratom the Committee notes that there is not universal agreement with the Government position that the UK has to leave Euratom at Brexit and says they view it as unfortunate. 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.
Commenting on the report Committee Chair, Iain Wright MP, said, “The impact of Brexit on Euratom has not been thought through. The Government has failed to consider the potentially disastrous 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 UK nuclear industry has strongly backed the Committee findings with Nuclear Industry Association Chief Executive, Tom Greatrex, saying, “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 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.”