Euratom exit peril for UK's nuclear projects - MPs

12th July 2017

Failure to secure an effective replacement for Euratom will cost jobs and research projects across the UK, according to MPs.

Trudy Harrison, the member for Copeland, said nuclear trade would stop or slow without a safeguarding regime, which “would be economically crushing for Sellafield”.

Antoinette Sandbach, one of several Tories prepared to rebel on the issue, said the UK had been awarded £500 million of contracts in the nuclear fusion supply chain. “Is not all of that put at risk if we leave Euratom?”

Rachel Reeves, the new Labour chair of the BEIS select committee, said in the Westminster Hall debate: “If we leave Euratom - and the uncertainty about that in the meantime - that risks high-paid, high-skilled jobs going overseas, which we cannot afford right now. Our membership of Euratom is key for the future of our civil nuclear industry.”

Some MPs attributed the UK's determination to leave Euratom to antipathy to the power of the European Court.

Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, said: “There is an elephant in the room: to many of us, it seems as though the debate is being driven by what many of us see as the Prime Minister’s longstanding antipathy towards the European Court of Justice.”

Liz Saville Roberts, a Plaid Cymru MP, said that without Euratom, ventures such as the development of small modular reactor at Trawsfynydd in Wales looked less attractive.

John Howell, whose Henley constituency includes the Joint European Torus, said an agreement on nuclear cooperation was urgent because “anti-nuclear” Austria took over the EU presidency in June 2019.

“Ministers have apparently written to the Commission to continue with the JET project, and to commit the UK’s share, which has gone down very well. Everything has been delayed to accommodate Brexit, and willingly so, but there is a need to get a move on with this. Staying a full member of Euratom provides the best continuity to that programme,” he said.

The Labour MP Albert Owen, who called the debate, said the UK had to choose between remaining in Euratom, a transitional arrangement, associate membership or third-country membership.

James Heappey, Tory MP for Wells in Somerset where the French state owned Hinkley Point is sited, said Paris would be an excellent ally in ensuring a new arrangement was achieved quickly.

Tory MPs ready to rebel over the issue include Ed Vaizey, Anna Soubry, Nicky Morgan, Nick Boles, Richard Benyon, Bob Neill and Antoinette Sandbach.


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