UK nuclear research, medical isotope use and international nuclear agreements face a cliff edge if the UK withdraws from the European Atomic Energy Community. But it can be stopped.
There is much discontent in parliament with prime minister Theresa May’s decision to withdraw the UK from Euratom at the same time as leaving the European Union. Britain’s withdrawal from this vital treaty was appended to the withdrawal notice that the UK handed to the EU on 29 March. The move was spun at home as a legal necessity. Yet this is highly contested. Further, there is nobody who actively wanted to leave Euratom. As the risks become clearer, there is potential parliamentary revolt on the issue.
Some, including Conservatives, are now calling to retain Euratom membership. But how best to do this? Revoking the Euratom withdrawal notice, with the blessing of the EU, would have several advantages. First, it would immediately allow business as usual to continue, thus ending the damaging uncertainty that hangs over UK nuclear research, medical isotope use and international nuclear agreements. Second, it would show that the EU is willing to creatively help the UK out of its own mess and set a productive tone. Third, the move could be considered a test run for the UK to revoke the entire notification of withdrawal from the EU, if desired. Although that last option should not be invoked unless it is the express will of the British public, the UK should nevertheless retain that option.