The UK's relationship with Euratom: What next?

Energy & Commodities

As Global Counsel and Herbert Smith Freehills convene a discussion on the UK’s future relationship with Euratom, this paper provides an overview of the legal and political background. The paper also identifies some of the potential options for mitigating the impact on the UK. Lastly, the paper identifies the six next steps the UK must undertake if it is to minimise disruption from ‘Brexatom’.

On 29 March 2017, the Government of the United Kingdom formally provided the European Council with its Withdrawal Notice, triggering Article 50, and setting out its intention to withdraw both from the European Union, and the European Atomic Energy Community, otherwise known as Euratom.

In justifying its decision to trigger the United Kingdom's exit from Euratom, Government argued that the EU and Euratom are “uniquely legally joined”, noting that “it uses the same institutions as the EU including the Commission, Council of Ministers and the Court of Justice”. This line of argument has subsequently been used repeatedly by ministers and was included in the policy paper “United Kingdom’s exit from, and new partnership with, the European Union”.

It is Herbert Smith Freehills’s view that the UK Government was not legally required to withdraw from Euratom when triggering exit from the EU. The intention to leave Euratom was not explicitly highlighted in the Withdrawal Act, which received Royal Assent on 16 March 2017 (although it was referred to in the explanatory notes). Further, even the Withdrawal Notice did not refer to Article 106a of the Euratom Treaty which is the relevant substantive provision relating to withdrawal.

In recent months a number of MPs from across the political spectrum have questioned whether the UK leaving Euratom is the right course, most notably Rachel Reeves and Ed Vaizey. However, the UK's intention to withdraw from Euratom is clear and consequently, the UK is on course to leave Euratom on 29 March 2019.

Read the full paper here.

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The views expressed in this note can be attributed to the named author(s) only.