Analysis

Cancer treatment rebellion new blow to May’s Brexit

by Hugo Dixon | 21.03.2018

The government’s latest parliamentary defeat could force Theresa May to suspend her plan to quit the Euratom nuclear pact which, among other things, governs the transport of radioactive material used in cancer treatments.

The referendum didn’t call for us to quit Euratom, which is separate treaty from the EU. The nuclear treaty is, though, governed by the European Court of Justice – towards which Tory Brexiters have an irrational hatred. It’s partly for that reason that the prime minister decided, in her wisdom, to tell the EU that she wanted to pull out of Euratom as well as the EU when she sent in her Article 50 letter last year.

The problem is that we need something like Euratom. It doesn’t just regulate the supply of medical isotopes; it governs nuclear safety and fuel supply in Europe. That’s why the government is in the perverse situation of trying to put in place some replacement deal just as it pulls out of Euratom. The snag, as with so much of what May is doing, is that this will turn us from a rule-maker into a rule-taker – and there’s a chance that we might not be able to get a new scheme in place in time.

This is why the House of Lords yesterday passed an amendment to the Nuclear Safeguards Bill by 265 votes to 194 to insist the UK should not withdraw from Euratom until a replacement deal is in place. The amendment isn’t perfect, as it only calls for suspending our withdrawal rather than cancelling it. It will now be up to MPs to decide what to do when the legislation comes back to the House of Commons.

The government must already know it didn’t have many good arguments to pull out of Euratom. Even Dominic Cummings, Vote Leave’s former campaign director, railed against the decision to quit the nuclear pact last year, saying: “Govt MORONS say they’re withdrawing from EURATOM. Near-retarded on every dimension.”

It’s not just cancer treatment and nuclear safety that’s at stake. If we suspend, or even better cancel, exit from Euratom, we will have taken a step on the road to cancelling Brexit entirely.

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8 Responses to “Cancer treatment rebellion new blow to May’s Brexit”

  • My comment is not directly related to this story. But I so very strongly feel that it is a matter that needs airing in the British media. The latest draft treaty document between the EU and the UK seems to strongly imply that the European Health Insurance card (the EHIC) will die, as it seems brexit will happen. This means that no British traveller whether on HOLIDAY or on Business in mainland Europe will have any form of health insurance unless they pay for it. If they get a violent tummy bug, or break a leg they will be on their own with the total cost to be borne by them, and not reimbursed by the UK Dept of Health.

  • If the United Kingdom withdraws from EURATOM, will the Prime Minister agree to pay for British cancer sufferers to be treated in EU hospitals and clinics?
    If not, BREXIT, already an immoral exercise founded on a lie, shows to all that it is immoral. Quad erat demonstransdum

  • I couldn’t agree more , how this has been omitted is nothing short of madness. It will put the price substantially of travel insurance and don’t forget the increased price of air fares and visas may also crop up too.
    Brexit is utter nonsense and should be stopped in it’s tracks pronto

  • As more and more exceptions to the simplistic “let’s just leave” approach become clear, the pending chaos becomes obvious. I note how the arch-Brexiteers keep their heads down whenever anything remotely technical appears. Being mentally stuck in the early ’40’s they are so far out of their depths that they fail to grasp the integration and its benefits across Europe. Of course Brexit looks simple to them, reflecting their own technical awareness.

  • “Euratom nuclear pact which, among other things, governs the transport of radioactive material used in cancer treatments”

    No, it does not.

    “It’s not just cancer treatment and nuclear safety that’s at stake”

    Cancer treatment is not at stake. You are fake news.