The UK’s department responsible for overseeing the UK’s exit from the European Union (DExEU) has published a position paper on the UK’s Euratom stance in the Brexit negotiations.
At issue is the six-decades old European Atomic Energy Community, known as Euratom, a treaty signed in 1957 with a crucial role – it governs the development of nuclear energy and its trade across Europe, funding research and development and assuring that European countries do not divert nuclear materials to military uses.
The government has resisted calls from some of its own Members of Parliament for a rethink on leaving Euratom, arguing that Brussels insists the UK cannot withdraw from the EU and stay in the nuclear energy treaty.
DExEU said Britain would quit the treaty but seek to work with Euratom’s member countries to ensure a ‘smooth transition’ to a new regime of nuclear cooperation and safeguards.
The position paper shows the government is not changing course from its decision in January to leave the treaty, despite warnings by radiologists that doing so would threaten the supply of radioactive isotopes used in health scans and treatment.
Politicians and the nuclear industry have urged ministers to consider associate membership, an option that does not appear in the paper. There is no mention of radioactive isotopes. The paper argues that Brexit meant the UK had no choice but to leave the treaty, because the European commission had insisted it could not stay.
Nonetheless the plan to withdraw from Euratom is generating alarm that it might hobble Britain’s nuclear industry and elminate thousands of jobs.
Prime minister Theresa May has insisted that with Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, it can no longer be a party to the treaty. But leading members of both the Conservative and Labour parties, the nuclear industry and the medical establishment are lining up against her stance.