Roseanna Cunningham raises concerns over UK plans to withdraw from Euratom
Theresa May faces growing opposition from her own party over plans to withdraw from the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), which fosters cooperation on the safe handling of nuclear materials
The Scottish Government has raised concerns over the future transfer of radioactive materials in Scotland, after a Westminster debate saw Theresa May’s government maintain its commitment to withdrawing from an international nuclear treaty.
With May facing growing opposition from her own party over plans to withdraw the UK’s membership of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), which fosters cooperation on the safe handling of nuclear materials, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham expressed irritation over a lack of consultation from UK ministers.
In a letter to the UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Cunningham reiterated calls from the Scottish Government for the UK to retain membership of Euratom, or to seek associate membership if continued membership is not possible.
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While the UK Government maintains that Brexit will demand withdrawal from Euratom, it has come under growing pressure from the opposition parties, as well as its own backbenchers, with around a dozen Tory MPs recently coming out in support of maintaining membership.
First Secretary of State Damien Green was forced to defend the Government’s plans after the Royal College of Radiologists has said it is “seriously concerned” about the future availability of radioactive isotopes if the UK leaves Euratom at the same time as it leaves the European Union.
He said: “There has been some unnecessary worry caused to cancer patients by speculating on this.”
“Let me set out the position: the import or export of medical radio isotopes is not subject to any Euratom licencing requirements.
“Euratom places no restrictions on exports to countries outside the EU so after leaving Euratom our ability to access medical isotopes produced in Europe will not be affected... I hope that clears up and I hope reassures cancer patients around the country that the scaremongering that is going on is unnecessary.”
The European Commission has previously suggested the UK would have to withdraw from Euratom as a result of Brexit.
Writing to her UK counterpart, Cunningham said: “As you will be aware, nuclear safeguards and safety are reserved and the regulation of radioactive waste and emissions is devolved. The future international arrangements for cooperation on research and for the transfer of radioactive materials and technologies will affect all parts of the UK.
“Amongst those affected will be nuclear operators, the users of radioactive materials including in the health service, and supply chain industries across the UK. These different aspects cannot be considered in isolation in determining our future relationship with Euratom and other countries, and our international obligations under the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
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