Britain is hard at work on leaving the European nuclear agency—for no discernible purposeby Christopher Grey / April 9, 2018 / Leave a comment
In Theresa May’s January 2017 Lancaster House speech it emerged for the first time that the government’s plan for Brexit included leaving Euratom, and this was confirmed in the Article 50 notification letter. This prompted a flurry of media interest in this hitherto rarely discussed issue. Most of that interest has since died down. But the subject remains of pressing importance. So what’s been happening?
Euratom is the European body which regulates the production, storage and distribution of nuclear materials, including waste and medical isotopes. It is closely intertwined with, but not legally part of, the European Union hence Switzerland has associate membership without being in the EU. However, even associate membership entails acceptance of European Court of Justice jurisdiction, a red line for the British government. Hence the decision to leave.
In recent months, the government has made progress—which it self-assesses as “substantial”—with the exit arrangements, which need to be in place by the end of the transition period in December 2020. Thus a Nuclear Safeguards Bill is proceeding through parliament; Britain has notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of its plans; and the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), which will undertake for the UK the work hitherto done for it by Euratom, has recruited half of the staff it will need.