Brexit and Euratom: Summary as of 1st October

Brexit developments are rapid and subject to significant change at very short notice. This summary reflects the position as we understand it at 1st October 2019.

Leaving Euratom: An afterthought to Brexit

The debates that led to the referendum decision to exit the European Union scarcely featured the parallel Euratom Treaty. The first news that the UK would after all leave the Euratom Treaty, as well as the European Union, came in Explanatory Notes to some of the earlier Brexit legislation, and the motivation seems to have been avoiding continued entanglement with the same European Union institutions (Commission, Council and Court) rather than ideological objections to Euratom or its objectives. Since announcing its decision to leave Euratom the UK has, paradoxically, sought close and continued cooperation with its R&D programmes and institutions.

There are both direct and indirect consequences toleaving Euratom.

The European Commission Directorate-General Energy on 25 September 2018 issued guidance to the effect that, without a relevant ratified Withdrawal Agreement, on leaving Euratom, the whole overall set of Euratom provisions, or Euratom acquis, would cease to have effect as the UK became a ‘third country’, including:

Other direct consequencesinclude changes to the application in the UK of the Euratom Safeguards regimeand arrangements for trade.

Indirect consequences includerisks to the continued and uninterrupted supply of radioactive isotopes formedical purposes, and to the UK’s continued participation in important Researchand Development programmes, particularly Horizon 2020, the Joint European Torus(JET) programme at Culham and the UK’s participation in the InternationalThermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

UK Government Response

The UK government introduced and passed its own primary legislation, the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018, as a framework for the establishment of the UK’s own safeguards arrangements in place of EURATOM safeguards, and the management of the new system by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

Under the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018, the UK government has also started to issue a three monthly series of Reports to Parliament on the Government’s Progress on the UK’s Exit from the Euratom Treaty. These are an important source of information.

The Report for 15 May 2019 gave updates on:

The next UK Government Quarterly Report under section3(4) of the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018 was planned for July, but appears to beoverdue.

About the Author

William Wilson is a specialistenvironmental, regulatory and nuclear lawyer with over 25 years experience ingovernment, private practice and consultancy. He has experience of all aspectsof environmental law, including water, waste, air quality and industrialemissions, REACH and chemicals regulation, environmental protection,environmental permitting, litigation, legislative drafting, managing primarylegislation, negotiating EU Directives and drafting secondary legislation.

Prospect Law is amulti-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy andenvironmental sectors with particularexperience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers,engineers, surveyors and finance experts.

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