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Britain’s nuclear industry and energy supply at risk from Brexit

Theresa May’s red line on the European Court of Justice threatens Britain’s nuclear industry, our energy supply and also risks Britain’s role as a global leader on climate change.


Another Brexit day, another industry at risk. And so is Britain’s role as a global leader on climate change. A new report from a House of Commons committee has said that the decision to leave Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community) would have serious consequences for Britain’s nuclear energy industry. The report by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee said that leaving Euratom would “severely inhibit nuclear trade and research cooperation”. The committee also said there was not enough time to set up new arrangements, which could lead to “disruptions to trade and threats to power supplies”.

If you’re looking for a positive here, there isn’t one. In the report’s conclusions, the committee said “we are not aware of any substantive arguments in favour of leaving Euratom made either during the referendum campaign or afterwards”. Instead, Britain’s departure from Euratom seemed to be “an unfortunate, and perhaps unforeseen, consequence of the prime minister’s decision to leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice”.

The Independent reports committee chair, Iain Wright as saying “ministers must act as urgently as possible” and that the “repercussions of failing to do so are huge”. He added “the continued operations of the UK nuclear industry are at risk”. In response 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”.

This just seems to be more doublethink from the government. Rather than standing up for Britain, it is this government’s red line on the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that is putting Britain’s nuclear energy industry and British people’s power supply at risk. To make matters worse, it seems the government didn’t realise this was an issue until after it decided to make the ECJ a red line. What else has this “strong and stable leadership” failed to grasp before putting the country on this path?

The consequences of this red line isn’t restricted to energy. It has consequences for many other EU institutions and programmes, we benefit from. And as a member of the EU, Britain plays an important role in the European Court of Justice. Outside of it, we won’t. As the report suggests, Britain will become a “rule taker”.

In the longer term, we are concerned that the UK will become a “rule taker” outside the EU, complying with, but unable to influence, rules and standards.

Leaving the EU: negotiation priorities for energy and climate change policy

It’s doublethink that seems to run through this government’s Brexit plans. A government that persists on saying that “no deal is better than a bad deal” but has admitted to not doing an economic impact assessment of it. It’s a government that hasn’t said what new systems will replace EU institutions and programmes we will no longer be part of or even how it will replace existing funding provided through the EU. And whilst the clock continues to tick for Brexit talks, this is a government that decides to call a general election, limiting time for negotiations even further.

Theresa May’s red line risks Britain’s reputation as a global leader on climate change

The committee also warned the government’s Brexit plans mean Britain leaving the EU’s internal energy market and the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). It concludes that Britain currently benefits from being part of both. The MPs urged the government to pursue continued access to the internal energy market and to retain membership of the ETS until at least 2020, whilst also seeking to renegotiate longer-term membership.

Giving evidence to the committee, Professor Michael Pollitt from the University of Cambridge said that a hard exit from the ETS “could seriously undermine global efforts on climate and certainly will undermine our role in global leadership on climate solutions”.

So, Theresa May’s red line on the European Court of Justice doesn’t just risk Britain’s influence in Europe. The report found it also risks Britain’s reputation as a global leader on climate change. So much for “global Britain”.

Meanwhile, this prime minister’s red line on free movement means Britain leaves the most integrated and comprehensive trading bloc in the world as well as our biggest trading partner, therefore endangering our economy. And a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies said that Britain’s ageing population and with many sectors facing labour and skills shortages, any immigration restrictions after we “take back control of our borders” would do even more harm to the economy.

In an article for the Financial Times, Philip Stephens said “Britain is giving away the substance of power for the mirage of sovereignty”. This sums up Theresa May’s Brexit.

You can see the full report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee at publications.parliament.uk.


Image: Heysham nuclear power station
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