Political agenda: Euratom takes crunch Brexit role

“Conservative remainers are mobilising around Euratom”

With every day that passes, the weakness of Theresa May’s government is more graphically exposed.

Energy is emerging as a focus of Tory backbench pressure. Big Six arch critic John Penrose is recruiting fellow backbenchers to his campaign to push the government to go further on energy prices than Ofgem’s limited cap.

However, for the fate of Brexit, the furore over the government’s proposal to withdraw from Euratom counts more. The UK’s participation in the pan-European nuclear co-operation body never really figured in last summer’s referendum debate.

The government said that although Euratom isn’t part of the EU, remaining a member would mean remaining subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Many believed May’s hard-line position on the ECJ was revenge for the reversals she suffered at the court’s hands when she was home secretary.

The Institute of Government think tank said the Euratom debate is a “major test of the government’s red lines” on Brexit.

Tory remainers, led by former culture minister Ed Vaizey, are mobilising around Euratom, finding common ground with Labour’s front bench.

Remaining a member of the Euratom club would mean accepting some kind of continued ECJ jurisdiction, making it easier in turn to argue for a closer relationship with the EU single market.

Giving in on Euratom would be a big concession but the PM may have no option, given the parliamentary arithmetic.