Parliament may rebel on Euratom

May’s “absolutist” position on exiting Euratom will meet opposition in parliament, warns former Brexit adviser

Parliament will force Theresa May to shift her position on withdrawal from Euratom unless she concedes on the issue, David Davis’ former chief of staff has warned.

James Chapman, who worked for the secretary of state for Exiting the EU until the general election, said the UK was exiting the cross-continental nuclear co-operation body due to the prime minister’s “absolutist” resistance to the UK remaining under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. (ECJ).

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster programme, he said Euratom was “very important” in terms of maintaining the movement of nuclear materials.

“The government has announced its intention to withdraw from the Euratom treaty at the same time as we leave the EU and the reason for that appears to be there’s a locus for the ECJ in that treaty which covers the free movement of nuclear scientists.”

Chapman commented: “I would have thought the UK would want to continue welcoming nuclear scientists who are all probably being paid six figures and are paying lots of tax.

“But we’re withdrawing from it because of this absolutist position on the European court. I think she could show some flexibility in that area. Surely we want nuclear scientists.”

Probed on whether members of the Cabinet would be cheered by a change of heart on the issue from May, Chapman said: “I think they would be and I think if she doesn’t shift on Euratom I think the parliament will shift it for her.”

In a surprise move, the government announced that it was withdrawing from Euratom, alongside the EU, when it published its Article 50 bill in January.

The government also included a bill to withdraw from Euratom and establish a new UK nuclear safeguard regime in the Queen’s Speech, published on 21 June.

The Nuclear Industry Association reacted by saying the bill’s provisions are not a suitable replacement for Euratom. The trade body urged the government to maintain membership of Euratom, which it says is “infinitely preferable” to the UK creating its own safety regime.

The Labour Party said that it would maintain UK membership of Euratom in its general election manifesto.