May accused of making Euratom decision 'with little consultation'

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Theresa May came under growing pressure to justify her decision to quit the Euratom agency today amid questions about whether she consulted Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt first.

Former Tory leader William Hague stepped in saying there was an “excellent case for staying” in the international body.

Meanwhile the Government declined to say whether or not the Health Department was formally consulted before the announcement that Britain would quit the agency, which health experts fear could disrupt treatments for cancer patients.

Asked whether the Health Department was consulted, a source would only say there was “wide consultation within government”.

The Standard revealed yesterday that the Royal College of Radiologists was “seriously concerned” that leaving the agency, which regulates the movement of radioactive material, could delay the import of isotopes used in scans and treatments.

The Government said it was “untrue” that treatments could be delayed. A spokeswoman stated: “The availability of medical radioisotopes will not be impacted by the UK’s exit from Euratom.”

There has also been an outcry among scientists and the nuclear energy industry that leaving Euratom will threaten their work.

“Mrs May came under fire in the Commons after the Standard report, but she insisted to MPs: “Membership of Euratom is inextricably linked with membership of the European Union.”

But Mr Hague, writing in the Telegraph, said Euratom was “legally distinct from the EU” and went on: “Now some MPs make an excellent case for staying in it — no one voted Leave with this in mind.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Government appeared to have made the decision on the basis of eurosceptic ideology.

“There are rumours flying around Whitehall that this decision was taken in No 10 with little consultation of other Government departments,” he said. “On something as serious as this, that would be indefensible.”

He called on the Government to say if it took any legal advice on whether Britain could stay in Euratom after Brexit.

In a letter he asked if the Health Department was consulted. Tory MP Bob Neill urged Mrs May to reconsider, saying her opposition to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) having jurisdiction over Britain should not affect staying in Euratom.

In this case, the ECJ jurisdiction only covers very limited and technical aspects,” he said.

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