A civil nuclear trade body has branded Government suggestions that post-Euratom agreements will be in place by next year as “more hopeful speculation than definitive statement”.

The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) said much more work needed to be done on securing agreements with other industry bodies and countries to ensure a transition in relationships when Britain leaves Euratom in March 2019 – at the same time is leaves the European Union.

The Government has stood firm on leaving Europe’s nuclear agency – which oversees nuclear safety and standards, including the movement of nuclear materials – because it falls under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

However, opponents say the move had the potential to hurt the UK’s nuclear sector, the vast majority of which is based at Sellafield and along Cumbria’s west coast.

In response to the first quarterly report on Euratom from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, NIA chief executive Tom Greatrex said that despite the agreement on a transitional period for Brexit, which runs until December 31, 2020, much needed to be achieved.

“While there has been some welcome progress there is still much the UK government needs to do by the end of 2020,” he said.

“The UK still needs to: conclude its negotiations with the IAEA on a Voluntary Offer Agreement and Additional Protocol; conclude negotiations and ratify new bilateral Nuclear Co-operation Agreements (NCAs) with the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan and others; and reach agreement on a comprehensive and new funding agreement for the UK to continue its world-leading work in Euratom’s fusion R&D activities.

“The process of ratification for NCAs is unpredictable, and whilst the government suggests these key agreements will be in place by March 2019, this is more hopeful speculation than definitive statement.”

Mr Greatrex also outlined where the Government needed to prioritise its efforts.

“There must be a continued focus and priority given to negotiations with the IAEA, Euratom and third countries to ensure new agreements are in place before we cease to be party to Euratom arrangements,” he continued.

“The UK government need to ensure that the UK regulator has the right number of people, with the appropriate equipment and level of training, to undertake the safeguarding inspections that are the foundation of our successful and economically beneficial civil nuclear trade.”

Locally, Barrow and Furness MP, John Woodcock has been a long-standing critic of the move, along with the union Unite.

They have questioned the move at a time when Britain is looking to develop new nuclear power stations, including Moorside in West Cumbria and has re-started the process of finding a site for a Deep Geological Disposal Facility to deal with Britain’s most hazardous nuclear waste.