If citizens are given a second chance they may change their mind on Brexit. Even Vince Cable thinks so, and mot of the Medical Professions agree.
Theresa May was under pressure last night to reverse her plan to pull Britain out of Europe’s nuclear regulator after doctors warned that it would jeopardise treatment for cancer patients.
The Royal College of Radiologists said that leaving Euratom could restrict the UK’s access to radioactive isotopes used in scans and treatments. The UK does not have reactors that can produce the isotopes and relies on reactors in France, Germany and Holland. Euratom oversees the supply chain.
Half a million scans are performed every year in Britain using imported radioisotopes, and more than 10,000 patients have cancer treatments that use them. Doctors said that pulling out of Euratom would endanger the supply and could increase costs to the NHS.
The prime minister is understood to have overruled David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and demanded that the UK leave Euratom because it is overseen by the European Court of Justice, even though her office admitted yesterday that the court could continue to play a role after the UK formally left the union, because of “transition rules”.
Experts say there is no automatic requirement to pull out of Euratom on Brexit because Britain signed the treaty before it joined the European Union.
Mrs May faces a rebellion, with at least a dozen Tory MPs threatening to side with Labour and scupper her plan to repatriate Euratom’s powers with a nuclear safeguards bill.
Dominic Cummings, the former campaign director of Vote Leave and adviser to Michael Gove, described the plan as “near retarded”. Mrs May had made a “huge misjudgment”, he said, and the role of the ECJ in Euratom’s work posed no significant problem.
No date has been set for publication of the bill.
Nicola Strickland, president of the Royal College of Radiologists, said that she was concerned about the situation. “Radioactive isotopes play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating cancer,” she said. “Restricted access has the potential to delay diagnosing and treating cancer in thousands of patients.”
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, wrote to Jeremy Hunt demanding that he clarify the government’s position. “Demand for cancer services is rising and key cancer targets have been missed in recent months,” he said. “This additional threat to stable supply chains has the potential to make a difficult situation much worse.”
Tom Brake, of the Liberal Democrats, said that Mrs May was “needlessly gambling with the health of the British people”.
Answering questions in the Commons, Mrs May said that the UK would seek a similar relationship with Euratom to that of other countries outside the EU.
“Membership of Euratom is inextricably linked with membership of the European Union,” she said. “What we are doing . . . is wanting to ensure that we can maintain those relationships.
“There are countries around the world that have that relationship with Euratom which are not members of the European Union.”
A spokeswoman for the government denied that pulling out of Euratom would affect treatments, adding: “The UK supports Euratom and will want to see continuity of co-operation and standards.”
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