Nuclear Politics

Europe / UK And EU Reach Post-Brexit Nuclear Cooperation Agreement

By Kamen Kraev
29 December 2020

Draft treaty still needs ratification by UK and EU 27
UK And EU Reach Post-Brexit Nuclear Cooperation Agreement
The UK and the European Union reached last week a draft nuclear cooperation agreement in the framework of the general UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) concluded after last-minute talks in Brussels, the UK government and European Commission announced.

The general TCA draft, which was coined on 24 December after what the Commission called “intensive negotiations”, will define the terms of the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

The EC said the TCA is based on a free trade agreement, a new security partnership, and a governance agreement.

In addition to the TCA, the UK and the EU signed a nuclear cooperation agreement which is to define the future of the UK’s relationship with the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), one of the EU pillar treaties.

Euratom governs trade in nuclear materials and technology, ensures the security of nuclear energy supply, and enables, research, infrastructure and funding of nuclear energy. For the UK, leaving the EU meant the country would also leave the Euratom treaty.

According to the EC, the new agreement would enable for the UK nuclear sector:

  • the supply and transfer of nuclear material, non-nuclear material, technology and equipment;
  • trade and commercial cooperation relating to the nuclear fuel cycle;
  • cooperation in the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste;
  • nuclear safety and radiation protection;
  • use of radioisotopes and radiation in agriculture, industry and medicine;
  • geological and geophysical exploration;
  • development, production, further processing and use of uranium resources.

The agreement is meant to make early notification and reliable radiological information available to EU Member States and to the UK, in case of nuclear accidents. It will also allow rapid, coordinated responses to radiological emergencies by sharing real-time data.

The UK will also keep its participation in EU research and development programmes like Horizon Europe, the Euratom Research and Training programme, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter), and Copernicus.

The EU's Erasmus cross-border student exchange programme has been excluded from the deal. The EC said the UK had requested only partial participation in the programme which does not meet the conditions set by basic act establishing the programme.

Parliaments of all 27 member states of the EU and the UK parliament will still need to approve the new UK-EU agreements before they come into force.

This is unlikely to happen before the end of the year. However, the parties have agreed to apply the new rules on a provisional basis until 28 February 2021.

The full text of the nuclear agreement draft is online.

CRRECTION (30 December 2020): Article corrected to reflect the actual bilateral agreement on the EU's Erasmus programme. The first version of the text had erroneously included Erasmus among the list of EU research programmes the UK would retain access to.

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