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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention, but I do not think it does. The Minister has made it clear during the passage of the Bill that although we are leaving the European Union and our membership of Euratom will therefore end, we still want as close a relationship as possible with Euratom. The Government have been absolutely clear in their determination on this. They stated in a written statement published last September that
“it is vitally important that the new domestic nuclear safeguards regime, to be run by the Office for Nuclear Regulation, is as comprehensive and robust as that currently provided by Euratom. The government has therefore decided that it will be establishing a domestic regime which will deliver to existing Euratom standards and exceeds the standard that the international community would require from the UK as a member of the IAEA.”
I hope that the Minister will reconfirm tonight that it is still the Government’s intention to reach and maintain existing Euratom standards in respect to safeguarding. I recognise that it will take time to get to that point, but it would be useful if he indicated when he expects we will able to assume that we have everything in place to maintain the Euratom safeguarding standards, and if possible, how much that will cost.
I also commend my hon. Friend on his success in progressing towards his objective of putting in place what his amendment in lieu describes as “principal international agreements” and “corresponding Euratom arrangements”. These principal international agreements refer to and include the nuclear co-operation agreements that we will need to maintain because it is on the basis of these agreements that nuclear goods, including intellectual property, software and skills, can be moved between the UK and other countries. The Select Committee report summarised the evidence we heard and concluded that nuclear co-operation agreements were
“expected to depend on the existence of a mutually acceptable UK safeguards regime. Witnesses were concerned about any potential gap between leaving Euratom and setting up new arrangements, which would cause considerable disruption to nuclear supply chains”.
We also heard that
“nuclear cooperation agreements with the US, Canada, Japan and Australia will be crucial for maintaining existing operations and should be prioritised.”
I welcome the news that the Minister has brought to the House tonight about the IAEA, the draft voluntary offer agreement and the additional protocol. I also welcome the US-UK nuclear co-operation agreement. Perhaps he will give us more detail on how long it will take for the agreement to be ratified. I referred earlier to the optimistic note that David Wagstaff, the head of Euratom exit negotiations at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, brought to our Committee, where he indicated that the co-operation agreements were
“well advanced and…would be completed in time for our departure.”
I have heard again tonight that that means March 2019.
With reference to the principal international agreements, perhaps the Minister will update the House on our negotiations with Canada, Japan and Australia. Will all Euratom’s existing nuclear co-operation agreements continue to apply to the United Kingdom until such time as new agreements can be established? It is vital that our civil nuclear industry can continue to operate with certainty and that there should be minimum to no disruption to the sector as we leave the European Union. Britain must be in a position to continue to honour its international obligations—