Policy & regulation

Labour is mounting a last ditch bid to retain the UK’s membership of Euratom

The opposition’s Lords team has tabled an amendment to the bill to authorise the triggering of the Article 50 notice, which will kickstart negotiations to exit the EU.

The government stated in its recent Brexit white paper that the UK will withdraw from the Euratom Community alongside the UK’s EU exit.

But Labour is seeking to amend the bill to safeguard the UK’s membership of the Euratom when the Article 50 bill is considered by the House of Lords next week.

Amendments to the legislation are reckoned to have a greater chance of being passed by Parliament’s upper house where the Conservatives lack a majority.

The Labour amendment states that the act, if passed, will have no bearing on the UK’s membership of Euratom.

And it would require the government to treat the process of leaving Euratom separately from the wider EU withdrawal process.

Alan Whitehead, Labour’s spokesman on energy, said: “Leaving Euratom would be gravely detrimental to the ability of our nuclear industry to work on an international basis. The nuclear industry is a lattice of common, standards practices and arrangements, all of which you would have to fully replace in the UK.”

Given the reliance of the UK on overseas expertise and investment to deliver its nuclear new build programme, Whitehead added that “it is perverse to be thinking of leaving Euratom at a time when those international standards are needed more than ever.”

He added that because Euratom was separate to the original treaty, which established the EU, the two processes should be treated separately.  “This is not something that ref has any bearing on,” he said.

In the white paper setting out its plans for leaving the EU, the government said that it had to withdraw from Euratom because otherwise it would remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

But former energy secretary Sir Ed Davey told Utility Week that government’s argument that continuing membership of Euratom is “incompatible” with Brexit is “simply untrue”.

He also warned that leaving Euratom represents a serious risk to the security of UK energy supplies.

A recent report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers added that, as well as jeopordising nuclear fuel supplies, leaving Euratom will undermine prospects for building new nuclear capacity in the UK.


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