After many months of increasing pressure over the UK’s intention to withdraw from Euratom the Government has come to the realisation that it will need to offer some compromise. In the last week the Conservative whips have informed ministers that they cannot get a majority in the House of Commons for the issue even with the support of the DUP. This was clearly confirmed in a Westminster Hall (Parliament’s smaller debating chamber) where several Conservative MPs spoke against the measure.
Brexit Secretary David Davis in an effort to ward off a rebellion has suggested that the UK may instead seem associate membership of Euratom. Indeed, many of those Conservative speakers in the debate stated that might allay their fears. However, it has to be recognised that this is the solution that Switzerland has gone for but in return it has to accept freedom of movement of people (something the Government is set against). Switzerland did try to impose immigration quotas and was suspended from several nuclear programmes as a result until they dropped them. There is also the issue that as an associate member the European Court of Justice will also probably have jurisdiction.
The option of associate membership has mostly been welcomed by the nuclear industry but it remains to be seen if this is a realistic prospect for the Government or if David Davis is floating this as a stalling tactic.