UK nuclear power stations ‘could be forced to close’ after Brexit

Leaving Euratom treaty will shut down nuclear industry if international safety agreements are not made in time, MPs told

Nuclear power stations would be forced to shut down if a new measures are not in place when Britain quits a European atomic power treaty in 2019, an expert has warned.

Rupert Cowen, a senior nuclear energy lawyer at Prospect Law, told MPs on Tuesday that leaving the Euratom treaty as the government has promised could see trade in nuclear fuel grind to a halt.

The UK government has said it will exit Euratom when article 50 is triggered. The treaty promotes cooperation and research into nuclear power, and uniform safety standards.

Unlike other arrangements, if we dont get this right, business stops. There will be no trade. If we cant arrive at safeguards and other principles that allow compliance [with international nuclear standards] to be demonstrated, no nuclear trade will be able to continue.

Asked by the chair of the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy select committee if that would see reactors switching off, he said: Ultimately, when their fuels runs out, yes. Cowen said that in his view there was no legal requirement for the UK to leave Euratom because of Brexit: Its a political issue, not a legal issue.

The UK nuclear industry would be crippled if new nuclear cooperation deals are not agreed within two years, a former government adviser told the committee.

Euratom explainer

There is a plethora of international agreements that would have to be struck that almost mirror those in place with Euratom, before we moved not just material but intellectual property, services, anything in the nuclear sector. We would be crippled without other things in place, said Dame Sue Ion, chair of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board, which was established by the government in 2013.

She said movement of the industrys best intellectual talent was made easier by the UKs membership of Euratom.

The government said it was working on alternative arrangements to Euratom. Describing the notification of withdrawal as a regrettable necessity when article 50 is triggered, energy minister Jesse Norman said that the UK saw clear routes outside of Euratom to address issues such as the trade of nuclear materials.

We take this extremely seriously and are devoting serious resources [to looking at new arrangements], he told the Lords science and technology committee on Tuesday.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said there was a lot to be done to put in place transitional measures replacing Euratom.

What were collectively warning about is the potential for there to be a very hard two-year period during which there are lots of other things the government has to deal with, that could leave it in a position where some of these things arent in place, he said. Greatrex said one possible option was an associate membership of Euratom.

Over the weekend, the GMB union called on ministers to reconsider their foolhardy rush to leave the treaty, claiming it could endanger the UKs entire nuclear future.

But the Office for Nuclear Regulation argued there could even be be some positives to leaving Euratom, such as a reduction in bureaucracy. If we relinquish Euratom there would be reduced burden from not having to comply with directives, said David Senior, an ONR executive.

Norman also promised a decision was due soon on the next stage of a delayed multimillion-pound government competition for mini nuclear reactors, known as small modular reactors. I love the projects and ideas but I want to be shown the value, he told the peers.

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Will Trumps presidency finally kill the myth of the special relationship?

The Long Read: Ever since Winston Churchill invented it in 1946, successive prime ministers have discovered that the bond between the US and UK is anything but sacred. So, why does this absurd idea refuse to go away?

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Will Trumps presidency finally kill the myth of the special relationship?

The Long Read: Ever since Winston Churchill invented it in 1946, successive prime ministers have discovered that the bond between the US and UK is anything but sacred. So, why does this absurd idea refuse to go away?

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Theresa May Brexit speech’s shows UK getting ‘more realistic’, says Tusk – Politics live

Rolling coverage of Theresa Mays Brexit speech, with reaction and analysis

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Theresa May Brexit speech’s shows UK getting ‘more realistic’, says Tusk – Politics live

Rolling coverage of Theresa Mays Brexit speech, with reaction and analysis

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Mays Brexit threat to Europe: ‘no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal’

Prime minister gives tough speech outlining governments 12 priorities for Brexit negotiations as EU leaders warn that country is heading for hard Brexit

Theresa May warned European leaders that the UK is prepared to crash out of the EU if she cannot negotiate a reasonable exit deal in a speech where her tough talking rhetoric prompted key figures in Brussels to say that the country was on track for a hard Brexit.

The prime minister told EU counterparts that any attempt to inflict a punitive outcome on the UK would be an act of calamitous self-harm because it would then slash taxes to attract companies from across the world, in a one-hour address intended to spell out the countrys negotiating strategy.

Although May said that the UK could be the EUs best friend if the article 50 divorce talks went well, she also said she was prepared to walk away. And while I am confident that this scenario need never arise while I am sure a positive agreement can be reached I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain, she said.

Eurosceptic ministers and backbenchers were quick to praise May, but her remarks also triggered a backlash from lead European parliament negotiator on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt. Britain has chosen a hard Brexit. Mays clarity is welcome but the days of UK cherry-picking and Europe a la cart [sic] are over, he said.

Verhofstadt also delivered a tough response to Mays point about business on his Twitter account. Threatening to turn the UK into a deregulated tax heaven will not only hurt British people it is a counterproductive negotiating tactic, he said, urging May to consider the concerns of 48% who voted remain.

Speaking at Lancaster House, London, the prime minister also committed to give both houses of parliament a vote on the final Brexit deal prompting the pound to soar although Downing Street was clear that the alternative to a negotiated exit would be defaulting onto the higher tariffs of World Trade Organisation rules.

Setting out her governments 12 priorities for crunch negotiations with the EU 27, May made it clear that the UK would:

  • Take back control of borders, arguing that record levels of migration had put pressure on public services
  • No longer be under the jurisdiction of the European court of justice, because we will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws
  • Explicitly rule out membership of the EUs single market because that is incompatible with migration controls
  • Not stay in the customs union, but try to strike a separate deal as an associate member to make trading as frictionless as possible
  • Not be required to contribute huge sums to the EU budget but simply pay towards specific programmes
  • But would seek a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the EU, and build trading relationships with countries beyond Europe as part of a global Britain strategy

Prominent Brexit supporters said the speech represented a clean break from the EU. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, who led the Leave campaign, praised a fantastic speech on Facebook. He has been keen for the prime minister to make a clean break with the EU, rather than seeking to remain inside the single market.

The former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: I can hardly believe that the PM is now using the phrases and words that Ive been mocked for using for years. Real progress.

However, remain supporters in the Conservative party insisted the plan for Britains future economic relationship with the EU amounted to single market lite. Anna Soubry, who is a key remain supporter, welcomed the language and tone of the speech.

What I am agitated about is that I believe that immigration benefits British business and I think we are making a serious and grave mistake by thinking we can cut the number of migrant workers without damaging our economy, she added.

This position was echoed by Labours Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, who argued that May was right to attempt to replicate the attributes of the single market in a trade deal.

Starmer said May had committed to something that would mimic full membership. The ball is in her court to deliver. We will hold her to that, he said. However, he and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were deeply critical of the threat to slash taxes, which Corbyn said would turn Britain into a bargain basement tax haven on the shores of Europe.

The prime minister said she also wanted to secure the rights of the 3 million-plus EU citizens who live in the UK, suggesting that one or two countries, thought to include Germany, had refused to negotiate an early agreement over the issue.

May said she would accept a phased process of implementation of the Brexit agreement after 2019 but not an unlimited transitional deal that could plunge Britain into permanent political purgatory.

She also called on leave and remain campaigners to put the divisions of the hard-fought referendum behind them. The victors have the responsibility to act magnanimously. The losers have the responsibility to respect the legitimacy of the outcome, she said, claiming that business, MPs and the public wanted to get on with it.

Calling for unity in the UK, May said: Because this is not a game or a time for opposition for oppositions sake. It is a crucial and sensitive negotiation that will define the interests and the success of our country for many years to come. And it is vital that we maintain our discipline.

The prime minister attempted to strike a conciliatory tone with the EU by promising to be a best friend to the bloc after Brexit. But she also claimed the EU had been too unbending in respecting the needs of a diverse set of nations, and too inflexible for British voters. She urged European leaders to learn from Brexit by not tightening a vice-like grip that ends up crushing into tiny pieces the very things you want to protect.

After delivering her speech, May spoke to Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, the presidents of the European commission and council, as well as to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and French president, Francois Hollande. A Downing Street spokesperson said she had told them that she understood Britain could not remain in the single market but wanted a deal in everyones interests, and said they had welcomed clarity and that Tusk was looking forward to negotiating in a spirit of goodwill.

Tusk also said it marked the start of a sad process but said that at least May was now being realistic.

Other European figures who reacted to the speech included the Czech Europe minister, Tom Prouza, who tweeted: UKs plan seems a bit ambitious. Trade as free as possible, full control on immigration… where is the give for all the take?

The Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, added that Britain was not just leaving the EU but also the common market and everything. It appears that Theresa Mays intention through negotiations with the EU at the end of March is a hard Brexit a very hard Brexit indeed.

One of the biggest challenges for May will be the Irish question. A statement from the Irish government welcomed Mays commitment to retain close relations with the EU, saying it was an ambition they shared. It said it was ready to intensify engagement with other EU countries, adding: Ireland will negotiate from a position of strength, as one of the 27 member states firmly in, and committed to, the European Union.

Sterling was up nearly 3% to around 1.238 US dollars following Mays speech. It also rose 2% against the euro at 1.158.

Some Labour backbenchers were despairing about their partys response, urging their leadership not to throw in the towel and give up on the prospect of membership of a hugely important economic market.

The former shadow chancellor, Chris Leslie, said Labour couldnt provide May with an alibi for her hard Brexit plan.

We should be trying to salvage membership of the single market but to throw in the towel and not even try to stay a member of the single market is sacrificing Britains economic future, he said, arguing that some EU countries might accept reforms towards managed migration.

Italy, Greece, Germany might think about amending that fourth pillar and not to even attempt to ask them is waving the white flag. This is a massively important market we need a bit of fight.

He is planning to lay down an amendment calling for a better deal if the government is forced by the Supreme court to publish an act of parliament before triggering article 50.

Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, said it was wrong that there would be no referendum on the final deal. The people voted for departure, they should be given a vote on the destination. This is a theft of democracy.

Downing Street sources said the prime minister had discussed the speech with both the leaders of the Scottish and Welsh administrations on Tuesday morning. But despite these conversations, May received an immediate rebuke from Nicola Sturgeon who warned the plan could be economically catastrophic.

Claiming that May was being driven by the obsessions of the hard right of the Tory party, Sturgeon argued that her demands for a special deal for Scotland were not being listened to.

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Government will lose Brexit supreme court case, ministers believe

Senior government figures believe seven of 11 judges will uphold demand that Theresa May secure MPs backing for article 50

Cabinet ministers have privately conceded that they are very likely to lose a landmark legal case on Brexit in the supreme court and have drawn up at least two versions of a bill that could be tabled after the ruling.

Sources have told the Guardian that senior government figures are convinced seven of the 11 judges will uphold the high courts demand that Theresa May secure the consent of MPs and peers before triggering article 50.

It is understood that more than one possible bill has been prepared so that the ministers are ready to respond to any detailed guidance from the judges into what the legislation should look like.

It is not yet clear when the decision is likely, but the Guardian has been told that the government has asked the supreme court for early sight of the judgment, to allow contingency planning.

However, a spokesperson for the supreme court made clear on Wednesday that would not happen, saying: Its just too sensitive.

Ministers hope the court will allow May to put together a short, three-line bill, or even just a motion, which is narrowly focused on article 50 itself and difficult for parliamentarians to amend.

However, Lady Hale deputy president of the court gave a lecture in November suggesting it was possible for the judges to go much further and demand a comprehensive replacement of the 1972 European Communities Act.

Dominic Raab, a Conservative MP and former minister who campaigned for Brexit, told the Guardian he and colleagues were not too worried about the case. I hope we get some common sense from the supreme court, but I dont expect the ruling to hold up triggering article 50, and the vast majority of people whichever way they voted now want us to get on and deliver Brexit, he said.

However, some remain-supporting MPs and peers are hoping there will be an opportunity to amend legislation, for example to demand that the prime minister pursue the closest possible economic relationship with the EU.

The Liberal Democrats plan to lay down amendments demanding a Brexit deal be put to the public in a second referendum and that 16- and 17-year-olds get a vote.

Some pro-Brexit MPs have been urging the prime minister to adopt a keep it simple strategy a phrase borrowed from management theory ensuring any bill is as brief as possible, to minimise the risk it could be derailed.

Mark Harper, the former Tory chief whip who backed remain in the referendum, said he believed the supreme court would only be able to demand that the government either produce a motion or a bill, but not demand any level of detail beyond that. He suggested Mays government would probably try to publish something very tight that gives authority to ministers to trigger article 50 before the end of March.

Harper said that while it was not possible to avoid any amendments at all, a short and focused bill would make it difficult for MPs to cause trouble for May by constraining her room for manoeuvre during Brexit negotiations. He said that if he was still chief whip he would not be complacent about the process, but was cautiously optimistic that the legislation would be passed.

Any attempt by the government or the claimants to obtain advance notice of the supreme court decision has been stymied. In most cases it is normal practice for the lawyers involved to be sent the judgment on an embargoed basis beforehand.

In cases as sensitive as the article 50 appeal, the judgment is kept secret until the last moment to ensure that it does not leak out. A supreme court spokesperson said: In view of the potential sensitivity of the case, there will be no copies of drafts available to anybody before the day of hand-down.

Ministers are planning to move quickly after a judgment to avoid the days of speculation and anger that followed the high court ruling, which took the government by surprise. The first step is likely to be a statement to the House of Commons by the Brexit secretary, David Davis.

He is proving popular among MPs since taking up his role, with friends in the Conservative party planning a drinks reception this month to belatedly welcome him back to the frontbench. His ally Andrew Mitchell has joked that it is time for a celebration now it is clear that Davis, who stepped down as an MP in 2008, is not going to resign from this role.

David Davis: Brexit plan wont be published until February at earliest video

One rumour circulating in Westminster is that the government plans to publish a press release claiming a win of sorts if four judges rule in favour of the government, while seven are against. That is the outcome that ministers believe is most likely.

And while they think they are likely to lose the case being brought by Gina Miller, which would require them to publish an act of parliament, they are more confident about other aspects. In particular, they do not think it is likely that the judges will order May to seek agreement from the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations before starting the Brexit process.

The prime minister will give a speech setting out her approach later this month, and she will later publish a plan for Brexit after signing up to a motion put forward by the Labour party.

Moderate Conservative MPs had urged the government to table a formal white paper, setting out its priorities as it negotiates Brexit, including the answer to key questions such as whether May hopes to keep Britain in the single market or the customs union.

But they now expect May to publish a less definitive menu of options amid fears that a detailed white paper could constrain her room for manoeuvre in the coming months. The government is still very concerned that if it puts forward a white paper, it will be subject to amendment, said one backbencher.

Separately, the Scottish National party (SNP) is seeking to use the political crisis in Northern Ireland to ramp up the pressure on the government over its decision to table article 50 by the end of March. Northern Ireland, like Scotland, voted to remain in the EU, and the government has promised to take formal account of opinion in other parts of the UK through regular meetings of a joint ministerial committee as it enters talks.

Deirdre Brock, the SNPs spokeswoman on Northern Ireland, challenged James Brokenshire on Monday. She asked the secretary of state for Northern Ireland: Now that there is no effective administration at Stormont who can speak up for Northern Ireland in the joint ministerial committee, and remembering that Northern Ireland voted to remain, can he tell us what he is doing to ensure that the interests of the people of Northern Ireland are being looked after when Brexit negotiations are considered?

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