Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

U.K. Takes Step Toward EU Divorce Payment in Exit From Euratom

  • Government acknowledges it must pay EU for nuclear equipment
  • EU says sum to be reimbursed will be part of final exit bill

The U.K. said it could be on the hook for payments to the European Union’s atomic regulator.

Ownership of cameras, seals and other detection equipment installed at nuclear facilities could be transferred to the U.K. by the European Atomic Energy Community, Prime Minister Theresa May’s government said in a four-page position paper outlining its decision to quit the regulator, called Euratom.

“Consideration will be given to the possibility of the U.K. taking ownership of existing Euratom equipment,” according to the paper, published Thursday along with the government’s repeal bill taking the country out of the bloc. Transfer is subject to “a common understanding of the fair value” of the equipment.

What the U.K. needs to pay the EU when the two sides part ways is politically fraught. Brussels estimates the bill could swell to as much as 100 billion euros ($114 billion) -- with the U.K. expected to honor commitments made to the seven-year budget and various pledges . Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson this week said that that the EU could “go whistle” for its money.

May’s government has nevertheless pledged to make a seamless transition out of Euratom and taking over its installed infrastructure may be the best way to accomplish that goal.

The bloc wants the payment for the nuclear safety equipment to be included in the U.K’s “obligations under the single financial settlement,” the paper said. May’s government has yet to formally recognize an overarching exit bill.

The government wants to provide “certainty to industry and others wherever possible,” according to the paper. The EU said it was open to transferring Euratom’s equipment “based on the value assigned to this property in the consolidated accounts of the Union,” according to a separate statement.

The decision has drawn opposition by the nuclear industry and from within May’s own Conservative Party. Just as banks have made London a global financial hub, Euratom has helped nuclear workers turn the U.K. into a central cog servicing the world’s flow of atomic materials.

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