14 July 2017
When Theresa May invoked Article 50 in March this year, she also notified the EU of the UK's withdrawal from Euratom, the European Atomic Energy Community. Euratom regulates the nuclear industry across Europe, safeguarding the transport of nuclear materials, disposing of waste, and carrying out research. It is a separate legal entity from the EU but no country is a full member of Euratom without being a member of the EU and the two share many laws and institutions. Crucially, it falls under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the withdrawal from which Theresa May has declared a red line in Brexit negotiations.
Euratom sets the rules about the transport and trade of nuclear materials and co-ordinates research projects across borders, such as the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. It also supports the ‘secure and safe supply and use of medical radioisotopes’, which are essential for various types of cancer treatment but cannot be stockpiled because they decay quickly.
MPs from across the party divide are unhappy with the government’s approach, with many particularly concerned that leaving the treaty will delay the delivery of drugs to patients who need them in a time of increasing demand. However, Science Minister Jo Johnson has said their availability ‘should not be impacted by the UK's exit from Euratom’.
Switzerland is not an EU member but has a special status as an equal partner as an ‘associated country’ and the UK could have a similar arrangement, suggested Brexit Secretary David Davis. UK Atomic Energy Authority chairman Roger Cashmore has backed the idea of associate membership. However, Theresa May’s red line over the ECJ might rule that out.
You can find more information on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, introduced to the House of Commons this week, here.