Government's Brexit plan risks 'severe ramifications' for nuclear industry, MPs' report warns

Ministers have already pledged to pull out of the EU's nuclear standards and research agency Euratom

Joe Watts
Political editor
Tuesday 02 May 2017 00:05
Hinkley Point A nuclear power station near Bridgwater, Somerset
Hinkley Point A nuclear power station near Bridgwater, Somerset

The Government must act urgently or risk “severe ramifications” for the UK’s nuclear industry from its approach to Brexit, an influential group of MPs has warned.

A report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee raised concerns that Brexit could throw the industry into flux by removing key standards and provide an opportunity for ministers to ditch climate change policies.

The cross-party group of MPs said there was a long-term risk the UK could become a 'rule taker', where it was unable to influence the European rules and standards that it still had to comply with.

Labour MP and committee chairman Iain Wright said: "The Government has failed to consider the potentially severe 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 Committee warned that any interval between the UK leaving the European Atomic Energy Community, known as Euratom, and entering into secure alternative arrangements would "severely inhibit nuclear trade and research and threaten power supplies".

It urged ministers to find transitional arrangements to keep Britain in the agency until a new plan could be hammered out.

Mr Wright said: "The Prime Minister has made it politically unfeasible to remain in Euratom long term.

“The Government now has a responsibility to end the uncertainty hanging over the industry and ensure robust and stable arrangements to protect trade, boost research and development, and ensure safeguarding of the highest level.”

Other recommendations included maintaining access to the EU's Internal Energy Market and staying as a member of the Emissions Trading System until at least 2020.

Mr Wright added: "In the short term, the Government should seek to avoid disruption to the energy sector and domestic climate change agenda.

"Government needs to provide as much clarity and stability as possible to support investment and avoid damaging UK competitiveness and adversely affecting consumers."

Responding to the report Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: "The future of the nuclear industry in this country can only be protected by a Prime Minister who will actually stand up for Britain and nuclear power in Brexit negotiations."

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GMB union national officer Justin Bowden said the report pointed to the Government lacking a "coherent energy policy".

He added: "Nuclear, particularly new nuclear, and the zero carbon power it produces, is crucial to the UK's future energy needs.

"In a world outside of the European Union, energy self-sufficiency is common sense and nuclear, alongside gas, will be fundamental in that reliable mix.

"Decisive action must take place now. The electorate will not forgive politicians of any political party who fail in their duty to maintain the electricity supply."

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