The government must seek a close association with Euratom, and consider flexibility for an extended transition period, writes Rachel Reeves – Labour MP for Leeds West and chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. The BEIS Select Committee is undertaking a series of inquiries into the impact of leaving the European Union on specific sectors of the economy. Ahead of the Committee Stage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in December, we published the first of these reports, on the implications of Brexit for the civil nuclear sector. In the coming months, we will publish reports on the impact of Brexit on the automotive, aerospace, processed food and drink and pharmaceuticals sectors. One of the most concerning aspects of the debates on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill relates to our departure from the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). During our inquiry, we heard from the main players in the civil nuclear sector, both at Westminster and in Brussels. Not one, not even ministers, advocated leaving Euratom, which the UK joined in 1973 in a separate treaty. The reality is that our departure appears to be a wholly unwanted but necessary consequence of Brexit. The nuclear sector was very clear to us that Euratom provides two essential functions: an internationally accepted safeguards regime (which verifies use of nuclear material), and nuclear cooperation agreements with key trading partners. Without these, our nuclear sector cannot function, and the 21% of UK electricity generation provided by nuclear is under threat.
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