HomeNuclearEquipmentHinkley legal advisers criticise UK decision to leave Euratom

Hinkley legal advisers criticise UK decision to leave Euratom

The law firm advising the developers behind the Hinkley Point C nuclear power project in southwestern England has described a decision by the British government to leave Euratom, the European atomic energy community, as a ‘legal own goal’.

The government said it will leave Euratom as a result of the decision to exit the EU because “they are uniquely legally joined” but the justification has been rubbished by experts who say there is no legal reason the UK cannot remain within Euratom while leaving the bloc.
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Herbert Smith Freehills, the law firm advising EDF on the Hinkley Point C new nuclear project told the Daily Telegraph the Government’s legal interpretation has created unnecessary risks, including an implication of delay for the planned Hinkley Point and Horizon nuclear power plants while complicated new bilateral agreements are formed. It could also bring imports of nuclear fuel to an immediate halt, which lead to a shutdown of existing nuclear power reactors which make up a fifth of the UK’s electricity supply.

Julia Pyke, a partner at the law firm, said the risk is “an own goal”.
“The balance of legal opinion is that it’s not legally necessary to exit Euratom in order to leave the EU,” she said.

Euratom is governed by the European Union’s institutions but it is a separate legal entity to the bloc. Although the pan-European nuclear group is governed by the bloc’s institutions it is a separate legal entity to the European Union and requires a separate exit process, meaning it could take place at a later date, she said.

Herbert Smith Freehills suggests the Government should consider an alternative plan before triggering the Euratom exit – even if that means it takes place after Brexit is complete.

“Even if they wish to exit because politically they are unwilling to remain subject to the jurisdiction of the European Courts of Justice they don’t have to do it this way. It needs to be done in a way which doesn’t create a ticking clock on your negotiations,” Ms Pyke said.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association and a former shadow energy minister, said the sector has made it crystal clear that it would prefer to maintain membership of Euratom.

“However, if the UK ceases to be part of Euratom, then it is vital that the Government agree transitional arrangements, to give the UK time to negotiate and complete new agreements. The UK should remain a member of Euratom until these arrangements are put in place,” he urged.

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