The government plans for Britain to leave the European nuclear body as part of Brexit—but this has been met with fierce backlash. What are the prospects for Britain remaining, or striking an association agreement?by Steve Peers / July 12, 2017 / Leave a comment
Members of Parliament were today debating whether the UK really has to leave Euratom, the atomic energy organisation, when it leaves the EU. The UK government has already served its intention to leave both bodies at the same time, but in recent days there have been concerns about the possible impact of this. So is it feasible to reverse course on the Brexit process in part?
There are three possible scenarios. First, the government presses ahead with its plan to leave Euratom entirely. One of the planned Brexit bills, on nuclear safeguards, will partially give effect to this intention. The problem here is that there are reportedly enough Conservative MPs ready to rebel on the Euratom issue to overturn the slim combined Tory/DUP majority in the House of Commons, unless they back down following government reassurances.
In the second scenario, the government could make clear its intention that the UK should seek an association agreement with Euratom after Brexit. This isn’t inherently unfeasible, since Switzerland and South Korea have such deals. But the UK would likely be asking for a stronger relationship than those countries have, and the EU side would have to agree to this. There may not be enough time to negotiate it before Brexit Day, and so the UK could enter into a transitional deal in the meantime. This might not be controversial in itself, but it would likely be hard to separate from the issue of a transitional deal relating to the EU, which is far more controversial. There would be a limited role for the EU court, the European Court of Justice, which would upset those who are strongly opposed to any role for this court as regards the UK.
In the third scenario, the government tries to reverse course, and cancel its intention to leave Euratom. This raises multiple questions. Can the EU and Euratom even be separated for this purpose? Although they are legally distinct bodies created by separate treaties, there are still links between them. In particular, the Euratom treaty says that Article 50 of the EU Treaty—the famous legal rule governing withdrawal from the EU—applies to Euratom too.
That could mean that withdrawal from one necessarily means…