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AN ANALYSIS OF THE CONSULTATION ON AN ENVIRONMENTAL PRINCIPLES AND GOVERNANCE BILL: PART II

Perhaps unnoticed, Defra’s consultation on ‘Environmental Principles and Governance after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union’, is probably the most important consultation affecting environmental laws to be introduced for at least the last ten years. It goes right to the heart of how environmental laws will, or should, or may not be, enforced, after the UK leaves the EU.

The second part of this series addresses losses the UK may suffer in terms of environmental law enforcement once it leaves the EU, as well as the likely aims of bodies set up under the Environmental Principles and Governance Bill  and environmental justice concepts  in operation in  the USA.

What the UK will lose in terms of environmental law enforcement on leaving the EU

On top of the existing failures to deliver effective enforcement of existing laws, the U.K. will now, after Brexit, lose:

  • Treaty obligations reinforcing environmental laws;
  • enforcement by the European Commission;
  • enforcement by the Court of Justice of the European Union;
  • the ultimate sanction of Member States risking fines for continuing
    breaches of EU law;
  • the legal requirement upon government to ensure that penalties for
    breaches are “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”; and
  • the right of individuals to activate enforcement of EU environmental laws, at no cost, by raising complaints with the European Commission.

Environmental governance                                                                                              

Any body, or set of bodies, set up, under the U.K. government’s proposed Environmental Principles and Governance Bill and/or parallel legislation in the devolved Parliaments will need to aim to deliver a consistent approach to environmental law enforcement across the UK; to be independently financed, established by statute and answerable to Parliament(s); to have the right to take up and investigate individual citizen complaints of breaches or non-enforcement of environmental laws without the prohibitive costs of judicial review; and to be able to hold government and public bodies to account.

Issues of Environmental Principles

With respect to the principles covered by section 16 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 , as a minimum:

(a) government and public bodies at all levels should have regard to them  when discharging their functions; and

(b) where they are already embedded in retained EU law, there should be a commitment by government to reflect that, and not to dilute their application.

Environmental Justice

In America, there are much better developed concepts of environmental justice in the way in which environmental laws and regulation are applied. As an example, the Presidential Executive Order for 1994 stated that:

…”to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law…each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing as appropriate disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies and activities on minority populations or low-income populations.

Another way that this was explained to the author of this article, by Professor Robert Kuehn of Tulane University Law School was as follows:

The observation that most community environmental struggles are not won solely through the hands of lawyers is profoundly accurate. If equal enforcement of environmental laws is to be achieved, then all aspects of the enforcement process need to be opened up to residents of affected communities – their participation in making enforcement decisions must be sought out, their opinions and desires respected and addressed, and their ability to protect their own communities and police the facilities in those communities enhanced.”

Concepts of environmental justice, and the approach to law making and enforcement recommended there by Professor Kuehn, might well have helped to avoid some of the worst aspects of the Grenfell fire disaster. It may be time to consider what lessons there are to learn from American approaches to environmental justice when considering environmental governance in the UK.

The fundamental structures of enforcement of environmental laws are being re-designed from scratch. At a time of some legislative and constitutional turmoil, environmental lawyer, and those interested in effective environmental laws, need to identify what really matters, and to speak up for it.

Prospect Law Ltd, September 2018

About the Author

William Wilson is a specialist environmental, regulatory and nuclear lawyer with over 25 years experience in government, private practice and consultancy. He worked as a senior lawyer at the UK Department of the Environment/DETR/Defra, and helped to build up the environmental and nuclear practices at another major law firm, as well as running his own environmental policy consultancies. William has experience of all aspects of environmental law, including water, waste, air quality and industrial emissions, REACH and chemicals regulation, environmental protection, environmental permitting, litigation, legislative drafting, managing primary legislation, negotiating EU Directives and drafting secondary legislation.

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy and environmental sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and finance experts.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law Ltd and Prospect Advisory Ltd and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

This article is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and it should not be relied on in any way.

For more information or assistance with a particular query please in the first instance contact Adam Mikula on 020 7947 5354 or by email on adm@prospectlaw.co.uk.

For a PDF of this blog click here

LEGAL ADVICE FOR BUSINESSES ON ‘NO-DEAL BREXIT’ PLANNING

The European Commission published a briefing on ‘no-deal Brexit planning’ on 19 July 2018, followed by sector briefings covering many different industries and areas, and emphasised the need for all organisations and businesses to be prepared for all outcomes when the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.

The UK government is due to start publishing its own technical notices about preparations for a no-deal Brexit as part of its contingency planning, and the notices will start appearing between 23 August and the end of September 2018. Sources suggest that these notices will cover 83 or more different topics, many of them of critical importance to our clients, such as chemicals regulation, civil nuclear power, electricity trading, environmental standards, nuclear research, oil and gas, renewable electricity and so on.

Prospect Law Ltd is already advising on many aspects of Brexit and will be following these developments closely. Please continue to monitor our social media for additional updates.

For further information, advice on how these developments may affect your business or to be referred to a specialist member of the team who can help, please contact Edmund Robb on er@prospectlaw.co.uk or 07930 397 531 or Edward de la Billiere on edlb@prospectlaw.co.uk or 07824 506 022.

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AN ANALYSIS OF THE CONSULTATION ON AN ENVIRONMENTAL PRINCIPLES AND GOVERNANCE BILL: PART I

Perhaps unnoticed, as people head to the beach in August, Defra’s consultation on ‘Environmental Principles and Governance after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, which closed on 2 August 2018, is probably the most important consultation affecting environmental laws to be introduced for at least the last ten years. It goes right to the heart of how environmental laws will, or should, or may not be, enforced, after the UK leaves the EU.

It proposes a new Bill, to set up a new body with the essential task of holding government and public bodies to account for environmental law enforcement, in place of enforcement of EU law by the European Commission and Court of Justice of the European Union.

The Bill will also address how the key environmental principles which underpin EU environmental laws should be reflected in UK laws after Brexit. The new Bill will only apply to England, as responsibility for the environment is a devolved matter, but similar issues will arise for each devolved administration. Debates continue over the workability of having four separate enforcement bodies, or a single body for the UK applying consistent standards but (and this is now a pressing need) taking real and full account of the concerns in each of the UK’s constituent parts.

In this article, the author argues that given the current failures of enforcement under existing legal structures, there now needs to be a legal duty upon all levels of government“ to secure the effective enforcement of environmental laws” for which they are responsible. He also argues that government and public bodies must, as a minimum, have regard to environmental principles when discharging their functions, and must commit not to dilute the existing application of those environmental principles where already reflected in EU law; and that it is time to introduce the principle of environmental justice to UK law.

Issues of non enforcement of existing EU environmental laws

The consultation does not address the really serious issue of non-enforcement of existing EU laws under existing structures. Examples of this are as follows.

Volkswagen and ‘defeat devices’

Volkswagen placed 590,000 vehicles containing defeat devices to mislead emissions tests on the US market. After investigations by Congress, State Attorneys General, the FBI, the Department of Justice, the State of California, Volkswagen in 2017 agreed to plead guilty and to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties, ($2.8 billion criminal and $1.5 billion civil penalties). Six executives and employees were named and indicted.

Volkswagen placed 1.2 million cars fitted with similar devices on the UK market. Initially, the then Transport Secretary wrote to the European Commission saying that he hoped they would “investigate this matter thoroughly and take appropriate action to avoid a recurrence”. On 8 December 2016, the European Commission opened infringement proceedings against 7 states, including the UK and Germany “for failing to set up penalties systems to deter car manufacturers from violating car emissions legislation, or not applying such sanctions where a breach of law has occurred.” Since that time, it does not appear that any UK enforcement authority has taken any enforcement action of any description against Volkswagen for this matter.

Air quality and the ClientEarth cases

The UK’s non- compliance with EU air quality legislation, and the ClientEarth series of cases in different jurisdictions to try to enforce it, are a matter of record. Successive UK governments must know quite well what EU laws require on air quality; but ClientEarth has been obliged to go back and back to court to obtain one ruling after another that the UK government is in breach.

Illegal waste sites

It is becoming clear that in parts of the UK there may be hundreds of illegal waste sites that are not yet being tackled by the environmental regulators, who are somewhat given to complaining that they simply lack the resources to do more to enforce existing laws in the area. This gives rise to two questions. First, is there the will to enforce existing law? Secondly, if the issue is really about resources, what can and should be done, for example, to share more of the proceeds of crime recovered in waste cases with the regulatory agencies, instead of with the Treasury?

Enforcement of river pollution incidents

The current referral to the European Commission by Afonydd Cymru of the inactions by the NRW in enforcing existing river and nitrate legislation underlines both the availability at present of a European remedy to breaches of EU environmental law, and the importance of oversight of environmental regulators as a practical issue for environmental law enforcement.

Failure to enforce existing environmental laws, at a time when the UK is, on Brexit, removing many of the most effective powers and means for their enforcement, risks sending a signal that pollution pays, that compliance with environmental laws is for the little people, not large companies, and that regardless of public concern, there isn’t the political will to make enforcement effective. Again, if environmental laws are not going to be effectively enforced, it doesn’t greatly matter what they say.

What is needed to make enforcement of environmental laws effective is –

(i)        clearly drafted laws;

(ii)       a strong political message, from the top, that environmental laws are there to do an important job, and will be enforced, against individuals, and companies of all sizes;

(iii)      a proper statement of enforcement policy by regulators;

(iv)      properly resourced, adequately informed and skilled, independent and robust regulators; and

(v)        a legal duty on all levels of government “to secure the effective enforcement of environmental laws” – something which the new environmental regulator can focus on, and support.

The follow-up to this article will address losses the UK may suffer in terms of environmental law enforcement once it leaves the EU, as well as the likely aims of bodies set up under the Environmental Principles and Governance Bill and environmental justice concepts  in operation in  the USA.

About the Author

William Wilson is a specialist environmental, regulatory and nuclear lawyer with over 25 years experience in government, private practice and consultancy. He worked as a senior lawyer at the UK Department of the Environment/DETR/Defra, and helped to build up the environmental and nuclear practices at another major law firm, as well as running his own environmental policy consultancies. William has experience of all aspects of environmental law, including water, waste, air quality and industrial emissions, REACH and chemicals regulation, environmental protection, environmental permitting, litigation, legislative drafting, managing primary legislation, negotiating EU Directives and drafting secondary legislation.

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy and environmental sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and finance experts.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law Ltd and Prospect Advisory Ltd and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

This article is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and it should not be relied on in any way.

For more information or assistance with a particular query please in the first instance contact Adam Mikula on 020 7947 5354 or by email on adm@prospectlaw.co.uk.

For a PDF of this blog click here

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SECTOR DEAL BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY—KEY MESSAGES

This article was first published on Lexis®PSL Energy on 18 July 2018. Click for a free trial of Lexis®PSL.                                                                                                                                                                                            Energy analysis: Rupert Cowen, senior commercial and nuclear energy lawyer at Prospect Law, highlights some of the key messages of the sector deal between the UK government and the nuclear industry

Original news

£200m nuclear deal to secure UK energy mix, LNB News 28/06/2018 94

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced a £200m deal with the nuclear sector to secure the UK’s diverse energy mix and drive down nuclear energy costs. The deal includes £32m to kick-start a new advanced manufacturing programme to develop potential world-leading nuclear technologies like advanced modular reactors, and a commitment to increasing gender diversity in the civil nuclear workforce, with a target of 40% women in the sector by 2030.

What are the key messages and conclusions of the sector deal? Is there anything unexpected or new?

 To those of us old enough to remember the 1970’s, when the government of the day offered support to ‘the white-hot heat of technology’, the new industrial strategy is back to the future with its ‘grand challenges’ to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future.

Although the strategy promises government support in many sectors, it is a moot point whether nuclear can be said to be an industry of the future. Although, it is clear that some in this government believe that if the price of constructing generating capacity can be reduced, it does have a future in the UK.

As a mark of the confusion which reigns within the government authorities seeking to assist industry, even before the ink is dry on the nuclear sector deal, the National Infrastructure Council’s National Infrastructure Assessment cautions against a rush to agree government support for multiple new nuclear power stations, and proposes that after Hinkley Point C in Somerset, the government should agree support for only one more nuclear plant before 2025. This following on from the government’s refusal to support the Severn barrage.

Among the hyperbole of the nuclear sector deal, is the promise to ‘transform our future’. The deal does at least make good on the promise of financial support with confirmation of £56m for R&D in advanced modular reactors (AMRs), £85m to replace the funding Culham lost because of the withdrawal from Euratom; and other promises include £40m toward a facility to develop advanced nuclear technologies together with support for an advanced manufacturing program and a national supply chain programme.

The stand out point is that, although there will be government support for AMRs, that support does not extend to the small modular reactors (SMRs). Despite its disappointment, Rolls Royce—who would have been the main beneficiary of government support for SMRs—said that it continued to believe that ‘UK SMR can be a significant contributor to providing low cost, low carbon electricity’.

Nuclear energy supporters see AMR’s as a lower cost alternative to traditional reactors which are struggling to compete with the rapidly falling cost of renewables.

The other stand out points were:

  • acknowledgement of the need for direct government advanced financial support to reduce the cost of construction of the existing planned nuclear development in the UK
  • the new facility to develop advanced nuclear technologies is possibly going to be located at Trawsfynydd with support from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC)

In return, those members of the industry who canvassed the Nuclear Industry Council have made a commitment to:

  • reduce the cost of new nuclear build projects by 30% over the next 12 years
  • reduce the cost of decommissioning old nuclear sites by 20%—reference is made to the current debate on the proper end state for legacy nuclear sites and the BEIS consultation on funding decommissioning

To the more cynical reader, the relationship between end state and cost reduction will not be lost.

This announcement comes only days after EDF announced that the cost of constructing Hinkley Point C had increased by a further £1.5bn to over £20bn.

Are there any remaining unanswered questions?

The government has indicated in a vague and unsubstantiated way that in the case of Wylfa Newydd, it might consider attaching taxpayer funds to the construction of the site, but with the ambition of achieving a strike price for the electricity that will be about £15/MWh cheaper than for Hinkley. Such a strike price would be about £77.50/MWh. This price is still higher than the £57.50/MWh allocated for UK offshore wind contracts in September 2017.

Are there any other important points worth mentioning?

The sector deal does not help with the biggest own goal for the nuclear industry in the UK and ensuring it is not affected by Britain leaving the European Union, and to aim for continuity with Euratom arrangements to enable the nuclear industry to continue operating after 29 March 2019.

About the Author

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy and environmental sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and finance experts.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

Rupert Cowen has worked in various countries on nuclear projects and has drafted for and provided ongoing guidance to those creating or revising national legal regulatory frameworks. He is recognised as a leading expert in international nuclear law and regulation; he lectures on a frequent basis around the world and has published papers on various aspects of nuclear regulation, particularly nuclear waste strategies.

Prices quoted are indicative and may be based on approximate or readjusted prices, indices or mean levels discussed in the market. No warranty is given to the accuracy of any view, statement or price information made here which readers must verify.

For more information or assistance with a particular query, please in the first instance contact Adam Mikula on 020 7947 5354 or by email on adm@prospectlaw.co.uk.

Prospect Law Ltd, July 2018

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UK GOVERNMENT PUBLISHES DRAFT NUCLEAR SAFEGUARDS REGULATIONS

On 9 July 2018 the UK government published a consultation on draft Nuclear Safeguards Regulations (see link). The draft Regulations are the next essential piece in the framework being introduced in the UK following the decision to leave the Euratom Treaty in parallel to the decision announced to leave the European Union. These are important Regulations with wide implications for all nuclear operators and those in the nuclear supply chain.

The consultation runs to 14 September 2018 and covers all parts of the UK. Consultation workshops will take place in London on 2 August 2018 and in Manchester on 15 August 2018, and others may be announced later.

Following the triggering of Article 50, Treaty for European Union, the UK government concluded that leaving the European Union had the consequence of the UK being required to leave the Euratom Treaty, and it gave notice of that intention at the same time [see earlier Prospect Law briefings in June 2017 and March 2018, parts 1-3].

In order to avoid any actual or potential gaps in the coverage of nuclear safeguards, and to ensure its continued firm commitment to both the international system of nuclear non-proliferation and uninterrupted support for civil nuclear developments, the UK government has had to go to considerable lengths.

On 26 June 2018 the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018 received Royal Assent, introducing a new and enhanced framework for the Office for Nuclear Regulation ‘ONR’ to apply safeguards outside of Euratom. The Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018 will amend relevant provisions of the Energy Act 2013.   Publication of the draft Nuclear Safeguards Regulations on 9 July 2018 is the next step in addressing the detailed regulatory requirements of this process.

The Regulations will aim to deliver an equivalent regime to that applying under Euratom from Day One of the UK’s exit from the European Union and Euratom, by whatever route that now takes. As expected, most of the new day to day responsibilities will fall on the ONR.

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ‘BEIS’ has also set up a working group with those with like responsibilities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and this has been considering related issues such as the shipment and treatment of radioactive waste.

In addition, the UK has prioritised development of bilateral Nuclear Cooperation Agreements with four jurisdictions with their own particular legislation controlling nuclear trade and cooperation, namely Australia, Canada, Japan and the USA, and a UK-USA Nuclear Cooperation Agreement was signed on 4 May 2018.

The Regulations will contain important definitions such as those of “fissionable material” and “relevant international agreement”. It is intended that on Brexit, key Euratom regulations will become “retained EU law” under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and then be repealed when the draft Nuclear Safeguards Regulations come into force.

If the draft Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and UK, on which political agreement was reached in March 2018, takes effect, then the Euratom regime will last through to 31 December 2020. However, if the UK leaves the EU on 31 March 2019 without being able to conclude a Withdrawal Agreement, the legislative framework of which these Regulations are part aims to ensure continuity.

About the Author:

William Wilson is a specialist environmental, regulatory and nuclear lawyer with over 25 years experience in government, private practice and consultancy. He worked as a senior lawyer at the UK Department of the Environment/DETR/Defra, and helped to build up the environmental and nuclear practices at another major law firm, as well as running his own environmental policy consultancies.

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy and environmental sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and finance experts.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law Ltd and Prospect Advisory Ltd and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

This article is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and it should not be relied on in any way.

For further information or for assistance from the Prospect Law nuclear team in assessing the impact of these Regulations for your operations, or in preparing input to the consultation process, please contact Edward de la Billiere on +44 (0)7824 506022 or by e-mail on edlb@prospectlaw.co.uk.

For a PDF of this blog click here

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BREXIT, EURATOM AND NUCLEAR LIABILITIES: PROSPECT LAW AT THE WM SYMPOSIA 2018 IN PHOENIX, ARIZONA PART II:

The following series of articles is written further to Jonathan Leech’s attendance at the Waste Management Symposia 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona, on 22nd March, and examines the UK’s impending exit from EURATOM and responsibility for international nuclear safeguards.

See link to Jonathan Leech’s presenter profileList of exhibitors and Conference Program

The second part of this series examines the UK’s nuclear cooperation agreements and post-exit relationship with EURATOM.

Future Relationship with Euratom

Phase 1 negotiations have focused on separation issues (such as ownership of special fissile materials). Phase 2 will move onto the future relationship between the UK and Euratom.

The UK Government’s aim is to remain as close as possible to existing arrangements, achieving maximum continuity without actually remaining as a full member of Euratom (recognising that Euratom membership is comprised exclusively of EU member states). Aside from the badge of membership, there is nothing at all about the UK’s relationship with Euratom that the UK Government would like to change.

There is no established model for the form of close association the Government seeks. The solution will be bespoke. It seems that anything is now open to negotiation. Even recognition of some on-going jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice, previously seen as a red line, may now form part of a future relationship. Government is confident that “there is a sensible solution, which may involve the ECJ …”. This would be a victory for pragmatism. Government has not found any ECJ case on Euratom affecting the UK in all the time it has existed. “It may be a point of principle for some people, but in practice as an appellate jurisdiction it has not even been needed.

In essence, Government is seeking an arrangement that has all the benefits and obligations of membership, but without actually being a member of Euratom.

Transitional period

Government has stated that there should be a time-limited transitional period of “about 2 years”, with the UK “staying in all the EU regulators and agencies during that limited period … [meaning] that companies will only have to prepare for one set of changes as the relationship between Britain and the European Union evolves.” It is not clear whether this or any other transitional period will apply to Euratom.

The BEIS Committee Report published on 13 December 2017 refers to the committee’s assumption that staying in all EU regulators and agencies “includes membership of Euratom” (whilst also noting that “the Government has not said so explicitly). Euratom is neither a regulator nor an agency. It is a community with its own legal identity. This does not mean that that UK cannot remain a full member of Euratom during a transition period, but the position is not clear.

A transitional period during which current arrangements for implementing safeguards within the UK via Euratom monitoring and inspections would alleviate time pressure on establishing domestic safeguarding capability within the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation. Assuming the UK does not remain a full Euratom member, the UK will still need to preserve or re-create existing safeguarding obligations currently enshrined in Euratom regulations.

The UK is only likely to be able to retain the benefit of existing Euratom nuclear cooperation agreements during a transition period if the UK does remain a full Euratom member during the transition period. Each Euratom nuclear cooperation agreements is made between Euratom for the benefit of its members and a third country. It is unlikely that Euratom can unilaterally extend the benefit of any cooperation agreement to a non-member (as the UK would then be) without the agreement of that third country.

Nuclear safeguards and cooperation agreements

Safeguards are essential to international nuclear commerce – verifying for an international audience that nuclear material is where it should be and is used only for its intended purpose. International safeguards are administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires that non-nuclear-weapon states accept comprehensive safeguards on all nuclear material. Similar arrangements are in place to safeguard civil nuclear material in nuclear weapon states (including the UK) under Voluntary Offer Safeguards Agreements negotiated with the IAEA. Safeguarding requirements applicable to the UK therefore arise from both the IAEA and Euratom. Euratom safeguarding requirements go beyond IAEA requirements, both in relation to quantities of material and nuclear facilities requiring inspection.

Currently the UK satisfies its safeguarding obligations via Euratom, with Euratom inspectors carrying out inspections of UK plant and inventories and submitting reports to the IAEA.

In a written statement made on 14 September 2017 the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy provided a clear commitment, recognising that “it is vitally important that the new domestic nuclear safeguards regime, to be run by the Office for Nuclear Regulation, is as comprehensive and robust as that currently provided by Euratom.” The statement confirms the Government’s decision to establish “a domestic regime which will deliver to existing Euratom standards and exceeds the standard that the international community would require from the UK as a member of the IAEA.” Government has no interest in reducing current safeguarding obligations to achieve a commercial advantage.

Government has made clear that it regards the current Safeguards Bill before Parliament as a contingency arrangement, to be used if an appropriate future relationship with Euratom cannot be achieved. The Bill provides enabling powers for development of a domestic safeguarding regime but does not itself make clear whether that regime will be designed to meet obligations under the UK’s replacement Voluntary Offer Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA or to maintain equivalence for current (and possibly future) Euratom safeguarding requirements. To maintain equivalence, Government will need to develop detailed regulations replicating current Euratom commitments.

Delivery of a state system of accounting and control to meet those commitments immediately on Euratom exit will remain a practical challenge. Evidence provided by ONR and others to the BEIS Committee highlights the difficulty in securing, training and mobilising sufficient resource before the current Euratom exit date of 29 March 2019. ONR is confident of meeting IAEA obligations by that date, but additional time will be required “to include all the activities necessary for an assurance regime which is robust and as comprehensive as that of Euratom.” It would be possible for the UK as a non-member during a transition period to continue to rely on Euratom inspections and monitoring (as distinct from Euratom nuclear cooperation agreements as referred to in Paragraph 5.4 above). If would however still be necessary for a safeguarding regime to be set out in UK law in place of current Euratom regulation.

Jonathan Leech is a solicitor specialising in project and infrastructure work, with particular emphasis on the energy, nuclear and utility sectors. His work includes advising on legal and contracting strategies and regulatory issues associated with major nuclear development, decommissioning, waste and reprocessing projects, energy infrastructure and other utility and infrastructure related projects.

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy and environmental sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and finance experts.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law Ltd and Prospect Advisory Ltd and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

For more information please contact Jonathan Leech on 020 7947 5354 or by email on: jrl@prospectlaw.co.uk.

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THE EU ‘REACH’ CHEMICALS REGULATION AND BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS:

The critically important benchmark for many industries is the EU REACH Chemicals Regulation, from chemicals to those dependent on complex international supply chains, including the automotive and aerospace sectors. Compliance with REACH will remain a requirement for businesses exporting to the EU, and REACH is, to an increasing extent, the model for comparable regimes in chemicals regulation elsewhere in the world. UK trade associations have therefore been lobbying hard to ensure that post-Brexit, the UK either retains a system of ‘mutual recognition’ between UK law and REACH, or at least the closest possible ‘equivalence’.

Through 2017, little information was emerging from the negotiating process on the kind of regime that the UK envisaged would follow on from REACH after Brexit. Industry was, at the same time, being told to ensure that registrations of chemical substances were made on time for the 2018 deadline for the lowest tonnage band; and, by postings on the website of the European Chemicals Agency ‘ECHA’ from September 2017 that all such Registrations by UK-based companies would become “non existent” after Brexit.

Pressure from industry bodies resulted in a CBI Report on 21 December 2017 that clearly identified key bodies and regimes, including ECHA for REACH, where close alignment was crucial to business.

The Prime Minister’s Speech on Trade Negotiations:

On 2 March 2018, in her Major Speech on trade negotiations, Prime Minister Theresa May noted these concerns, stating –

We will also want to explore with the EU, the terms on which the UK could remain part of EU agencies such as those that are critical for the chemicals, medicines and aerospace industries: the European Medicines Agency, the European Chemicals Agency, and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

We would, of course, accept that this would mean abiding by the rules of those agencies and making an appropriate financial contribution.”

The Prime Minister listed the advantages of such associate membership, for the UK and the EU, as including products only needing one set of approvals, in one country; UK contributions of technical expertise to the critical role of these agencies in setting and enforcing relevant rules; dispute resolution in national courts rather than the CJEU; and UK capacity in contributing to the regulatory workload and scientific expertise available.

European Council President Donald Tusk, when introducing the EU’s draft negotiating guidelines for the next phase of talks on 7 March 2017, replied –

A pick-and-mix approach for a non-member state is out of the question… The Union will preserve its autonomy as regards its decision-making, which excludes participation of the United Kingdom as a third country to EU institutions, agencies or bodies.”

Prime Minister May anticipated these objections in her own speech, noting that –

The fact is that every Free Trade Agreement has varying market access depending on the respective interests of the countries involved. If this is cherry-picking, then every trade agreement is cherry picking.”

UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement:

Negotiations now move on to finalising the text of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU, announced on 19 March 2018 and considered at the European Council Meeting of 22 March, and from that to the continuing negotiations on a Trade Agreement.

For the purposes of REACH, the continued validity of REACH Registrations held by UK-based companies for the duration of the Transition Period may be intended to be achieved through Article 4 of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement, but confirmation of that from the UK government and ECHA would be welcome.

As negotiations progress to the next stage of a proposed Trade Agreement between the UK and EU, the question remains of how the UK would deliver, in law, associate membership of the EU agencies that it identifies as being of critical importance.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, presently going through Parliament, would repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and the basis for supremacy of EU law in the UK; whereas the Prime Minister is proposing that the UK would abide by the same rules as EU Member State participants in ECHA, which are, of course, ultimately enforced by the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union.  Even amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill to achieve what might be agreed political objectives are anything but straightforward, with the present Parliamentary arithmetic.

If, on the other hand, the UK takes the line that it must be a ‘rule maker’ and not a ‘rule taker’, or if a different agreement on a relationship with ECHA, EASA and the European Medicines Agency is not achieved in the trade negotiations, then the REACH Regulation would need to be re-enacted into UK law to achieve ‘equivalence’.

In such a case it is clear that the general provisions of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will not suffice, which would demand a long, complex and politically sensitive Statutory Instrument made with reference to the much debated Henry VIII clauses of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, making necessary changes to the REACH Regulation to correct what would otherwise be “deficiencies” in its application in UK law.

This secondary legislation would need to establish the HSE, or some other body, as a UK equivalent to the European Chemicals Agency; to resolve the issues arising from the devolution of powers to make environmental legislation to the devolved Parliaments; and to address how the UK equivalent to REACH would keep track of future developments in the REACH Regulation (and the CLP Regulation and other related chemicals legislation) instead of continuing to diverge from it (which might well in turn have implications for trade agreements with the EU).

William Wilson, Prospect Law Ltd

William Wilson is a specialist environmental, regulatory and nuclear lawyer with over 25 years experience in government, private practice and consultancy. He worked as a senior lawyer at the UK Department of the Environment/DETR/Defra, and helped to build up the environmental and nuclear practices at another major law firm, as well as running his own environmental policy consultancies. William has experience of all aspects of environmental law, including water, waste, air quality and industrial emissions, REACH and chemicals regulation, environmental protection, environmental permitting, litigation, legislative drafting, managing primary legislation, negotiating EU Directives and drafting secondary legislation.

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy and environmental sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and finance experts.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law Ltd and Prospect Advisory Ltd and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

For more information please contact William Wilson on 020 7947 5354 or by email on: wew@prospectlaw.co.uk.

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PUBLIC BILL COMMITTEE: 31 OCTOBER 2017 OUTLINE OF VIEWS ON NUCLEAR SAFEGUARDS BILL

The Nuclear Safeguards Bill (https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/nuclearsafeguards.html) represents an important but limited step in the process of withdrawal from Euratom, and this article focuses on the context and effects of that step.

Background

If the UK is to maintain involvement in the international nuclear community, it must have in place an internationally acceptable safeguards regime. Detailed regulations and adequate resource within the Office for Nuclear Regulation will be needed to operate and enforce that regime.

An acceptable safeguards regime is the first step towards replacement of the existing Euratom and bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements (NCAs) on which the UK relies. It will not be possible to conclude or even make meaningful progress with the negotiation of replacement NCAs until the UK can demonstrate that it will have an acceptable replacement safeguards regime in place on withdrawal from Euratom.

In context of the challenging withdrawal timetable, the replacement UK safeguards regime will need to be such that no reasonable counterparty to any NCA negotiation can delay or disagree on the basis of inadequate safeguarding. To avoid any perceived competitive advantage and to facilitate agreement of replacement NCAs, the new regime is likely to need to carry forward the full scope of the Euratom safeguards regime, which goes beyond the current UK Voluntary Offer Safeguards Agreement (VOSA) and Additional Protocol.

To maintain international acceptance, the UK will also need to conclude negotiations with the IAEA on a replacement VOSA and Additional Protocol, both of which are currently predicated on Euratom membership. The new UK domestic safeguarding regime must then fulfil those agreements.

Purpose of Nuclear Safeguards Bill

Within its limited ambit, the Nuclear Safeguards Bill is broadly an effective but small step towards implementation of an internationally acceptable safeguards regime (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2017-2019/0109/18109.pdf).

The Bill is limited to the creation of enabling powers for subsequent safeguards regulations. To avoid a disruptive hiatus in international nuclear cooperation, primary focus should already be on:

  • Preparation of those regulations;
  • Ensuring that ONR has sufficient resources to take over full responsibility for safeguards in 2019; and
  • Detailed proposals and assurances surrounding negotiations with Euratom and IAEA, and with states with which the UK will need to enter into replacement NCAs.

Crucially, the Nuclear Safeguards Bill cannot be regarded as a “contingency” (as stated by Greg Clark in the second reading debate https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2017-10-16/debates/84828D23-EAA6-4855-99D0-4C47BD5D3633/NuclearSafeguardsBill) to be used only if the UK is not able to conclude a satisfactory agreement with Euratom.

  • Unless the UK remains a full member of Euratom (whether permanently or during any transitional phase following exit from the EU), the legislative powers and additional ONR responsibilities set out in the Bill are required as a matter of urgency. Any delay in relation to the above tasks on the basis that the Bill may not be required would be an extremely high-risk strategy (hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2017-10-16/debates/84828D23-EAA6-4855-99D0-4C47BD5D3633/NuclearSafeguardsBill)
  • In the absence of full Euratom membership, continued reliance on Euratom safeguarding arrangements would entail acceptance and payment for full application of relevant treaty obligations, regulations (including Commission Regulation (Euratom) 302/2005), inspections, enforcement powers and ECJ jurisdiction. Even then, it is likely that the UK could continue to operate within Euratom NCAs only with the agreement of each state counterparty to those NCAs. The UK would still need to replace the IAEA VOSA and Additional Protocol to reflect the UK’s changed status in relation to Euratom, so amendments to Section 93 of the Energy Act and other legislation referred to in the Bill would remain necessary.

If in referring to the Nuclear Safeguards Bill as a “contingency”, government is indicating a desire to continue full Euratom membership, at least during a transitional phase, this is to be welcomed (although unnecessary express reference to Euratom in the UK’s notification of withdrawal under Article 50 will not have assisted in achieving this).

Contrary to the government’s stated position, there are good legal arguments against any necessity to exit Euratom at the same time as exiting the EU. The Commission statement in its recommendation for a European Council decision authorising opening of negotiations on UK withdrawal simply acknowledges that Article 50 applies to Euratom. This is correct, but does not address the question as to what application of Article 50 means in context of the Euratom Treaty.

Jonathan Leech & Rupert Cowen, 6 November 2017

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy and environmental sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and finance experts.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law Ltd and Prospect Advisory Ltd and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

For more information please contact Jonathan Leech or Rupert Cowen on 020 7947 5354 or by email on: rcc@prospectlaw.co.uk and jrl@prospectlaw.co.uk.

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EURATOM

Despite rumours to the contrary, the UK government is now set in its declared determination to leave Euratom at the same time as departing from the EU.

On a political level, maintaining membership of Euratom would entail accepting jurisdiction of the ECJ.

The Government has not demonstrated that it has any desire to consider the absence of legal necessity to leave Euratom at the same time as leaving the EU, or at all. On the other hand, there does also appear to be a gradual recognition of the implications of Euratom exit, including various implications relating to energy security, management of the UK’s nuclear legacy and continued supply of medical isotopes.

It is to be hoped that a sufficient number of Euratom members will have an interest in maintaining a relatively stable UK nuclear industry and will agree to practicable transitional arrangements, allowing the UK sufficient time to develop its own adequate safeguarding arrangements as a basis for negotiation of bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with the partners on whom the UK relies.

Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory provide a unique combination of legal and technical advisory services for clients involved in energy, infrastructure and natural resource projects in the UK and internationally.

This article is not intended to constitute legal advice and Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory accepts no responsibility for loss or damage incurred as a result of reliance on its content. Specific legal advice should be taken in relation to any issues or concerns of readers which are raised by this article. 

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

For more information, please contact Jonathan Leech and Rupert Cowen on jrl@prospectlaw.co.uk and rcc@prospectlaw.co.uk, or by telephone on 020 7947 5354.

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BREXIT WHITE PAPER CONFUSES EURATOM DEBATE

The 2008 EU Amendment Act is not a justifiable legal basis for the UK government’s belief that Brexit must also mean an exit from Euratom, write Jonathan Leech and Rupert Cowen of Prospect Law.

The government’s white paper on the UK’s “exit from and new partnership with” the European Union published last week confirms its position that “When we invoke Article 50, we will be leaving Euratom as well as the EU”.” In support of this, the document asserts that the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 “makes clear that, in UK law, references to the EU include Euratom”.  This is presumably an assertion that references to the EU in the Referendum Act, the referendum question and the withdrawal bill automatically include Euratom – something both the Leave and Remain campaigns omitted to mention.

The 2008 EU Amendment Act tells us that “A reference to the EU in an Act or an instrument made under an Act includes … a reference to [Euratom].” The white paper overlooks the point that the 2008 Act does not apply to Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union – which is of course neither an Act nor an instrument made under an Act. This is significant, because there is a good legal argument that triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union will have no legal effect on the UK’s membership of Euratom, and that to exit Euratom the government will need to trigger equivalent exit provisions in the Euratom Treaty. This would mean, absent that separate trigger, legally the UK remains in Euratom.

The white paper also states that “The Euratom Treaty imports Article 50 into its provisions.”  This is correct – to a point. The Euratom Treaty applies a version of Article 50, re-written to refer to Euratom and the Euratom Treaty in place of references to the EU. Again, this supports existence of a separate Euratom exit process that is similar to but is not part of a single EU Article 50 process. This is an important distinction.  It gives the government a choice, at least in relation to its approach to the timing of Euratom exit – a choice that it would be unwise to ignore.

The legal meaning of the withdrawal bill is also critical. The bill is the government’s response to Supreme Court confirmation that parliamentary authority is required before Article 50 can be triggered. It is highly likely that the government also needs parliamentary authority to trigger exit from Euratom.

Clause 1 is very specific. “The Prime Minister may notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union …”  There is nothing in the 2008 Act to suggest that reference to the Treaty on European Union automatically includes reference to the Euratom Treaty. Arguably the bill as drafted does not therefore give authority to trigger exit under the Euratom Treaty. It would have been preferable to include separate authority for Euratom exit, both to avoid this element of doubt and to provide a clear basis for the government to take additional time before triggering Euratom exit should the government conclude that this is in the national interest.

In addition to securing parliamentary approval for a Euratom exit, the government will need to be confident that, once triggered, the two-year Euratom exit timetable is sufficient to put in place replacement arrangements to avoid a damaging hiatus for the UK nuclear industry. This is likely to require a good deal of preparatory work before starting the 2-year countdown.

Since the UK accession to Euratom in 1973 the regulation and international acceptability of the UK nuclear industry have been closely entwined with Euratom. The Euratom Treaty sets out eight areas of activity: promotion of research, establishing and policing uniform safety standards, facilitating investment, ensuring a regular supply or ores and fuels (via the Euratom Supply Agency), applying safeguards, exercising rights of ownership over ‘special fissile materials’, creation of a nuclear common market and establishing relations with other countries and international organisation to foster progress in nuclear energy. Of these areas, safeguards and international relations are likely to place the greatest strain on the exit timetable.  Withdrawal also creates vast uncertainty for the future of UK fusion research.

Safeguards are essential to international nuclear commerce – verifying for an international audience that nuclear material is where it should be and is used only for its intended purpose.  International safeguards are administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires that non-nuclear-weapon states accept comprehensive safeguards on all nuclear material.  Similar arrangements are in place to safeguard civil nuclear material in nuclear weapon states (including the UK). Currently the UK satisfies its safeguarding obligations via Euratom, with Euratom inspectors carrying out inspections of UK plant and inventories and submitting reports to the IAEA.

Nuclear trade between the UK and other Euratom members relies on common Euratom safeguarding arrangements. Nuclear trade between the UK and other countries relies on either Euratom nuclear cooperation agreements, or bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements predicated on UK continued participation in Euratom safeguards.

Of the circa 50 bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements the UK has entered into since 1956 (when the European Atomic Energy Community came into being), over 30 specifically recite and rely upon UK participation in Euratom safeguards. Without demonstrably adequate safeguards key countries will simply cease trade with the UK in nuclear materials, technology and know-how. For example, absence of a Section 123 Agreement with the US would prevent supply of key components for both the Hitachi-GE ABWR and Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. Absence of a nuclear cooperation agreement with Australia would cut off a key source of uranium imports. Perhaps more crucial would be maintaining supplies of medical isotopes.

If the government continues to assert that Euratom and EU exit timetables must align then it will have two years to:

  • design, resource and implement new UK safeguarding arrangements in line with accepted international standards;
  • replace current safeguarding commitments under the NPT (which are also predicated on Euratom membership);
  • identify and plan negotiation of replacement nuclear cooperation agreements with every country with which the UK has ongoing nuclear trade; and
  • ensure it has the resources to conduct all of those negotiations, and be confident that those negotiations will be concluded successfully before Euratom exit takes effect.

Disentanglement from the Euratom Supply Agency and Euratom ownership arrangement for special fissile materials (including enriched uranium and plutonium) should, hopefully, prove to be predominantly an administrative task, provided that the UK can satisfy continuing Euratom members as to its safeguarding arrangements.

Turning to fusion research, the UK based Joint European Torus experimental fusion facility is dependent on Euratom funding. If the facility is to continue, the UK government will need to negotiate a new basis for UK involvement in the project and new funding arrangements, whether as a “third country”, “associated country” or on some other basis. Exiting Euratom also calls into question UK involvement in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, in the initial stages of construction in France.  In both cases, in addition to protecting UK involvement in ongoing research, UK interests in intellectual property used or created in those projects will require careful consideration if the UK is not to be disadvantaged in future exploitation of fusion technology.

This article was originally published in World Nuclear News on 9th February: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/V-Brexit-white-paper-confuses-Euratom-debate-08021702.html 

Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory provide a unique combination of legal and technical advisory services for clients involved in energy, infrastructure and natural resource projects in the UK and internationally.

This article is not intended to constitute legal advice and Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory accepts no responsibility for loss or damage incurred as a result of reliance on its content. Specific legal advice should be taken in relation to any issues or concerns of readers which are raised by this article.  

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

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