Euratom myth-buster

Berlaymont flags outside

In the current UK debate about Euratom, there are three common errors.

Responding to each in turn:

1. “Membership of Euratom is possible outside of EU membership”

Though the European Union and Euratom Community each have “legal personality”, i.e. incorporation, it is not possible for any state to be in one without being in both.

Since the 1965 Merger Treaty the EU and Euratom have shared the same staff, the same budget and the same set of institutions (Parliament, Council, Commission etc). Subsequent EU treaties consolidated this approach.

When for example (anti-nuclear) Austria joined the EU in 1995, it was made clear that this could only be possible if Austria acceded to Euratom at the same time.

In 2003 in the constitutional convention a proposal to merge the two legal personalities was rejected because several EU member states no longer supported the promotional aspects of Euratom. Later, in Declaration 54 attached to the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, five states said that Euratom needs to be updated as soon as possible.

Most recently, in preparing for Article 50 talks with the UK, the 27 remaining member states stated clearly and repeatedly “no cherry-picking” from among the acquis.

2. “Associate membership is an alternative option.”

Those who promote this idea confuse the concept with the “association agreements” that link some third countries to some Euratom activities. Most commonly such agreements involve Chapter 1 research programmes.

Such collaborations are not the same as membership or associate membership and do not usually include in their scope activities under other chapters such as safety (Chapter 3), supplies (Chapter 6) and safeguards (Chapter 7). Altogether Euratom has ten functional chapters.

A new Euratom association agreement with the UK could be done following the conclusion of an Article 50 (Withdrawal) agreement. The opening of talks on such an agreement is conditional on “sufficient progress” in the Article 50 talks.

Transitional arrangements, if any, would be done under the withdrawal agreement rather than under any subsequent agreement on future relations.

3. “Trade in medical isotopes will be impacted by the UK’s departure”

This is also a red herring. Euratom does not place any export restrictions on medical isotopes so, save for the weaker exchange rate, the future trade in such goods will not be affected if Brexit goes ahead. ❧ 

UPDATE, 11.45 am 25 July:

Following-up on point 3, I was asked if  isotopes for medical use were subject to safeguards controls in a similar way to the materials used in nuclear fuels. The short answer is no. For materials the scope of safeguards under Chapter 7 is essentially only uranium, plutonium, thorium and corresponding ores etc, as defined in Euratom Article 197. The scope of the nuclear common market under Chapter 9 is defined in Annex 4 and is very much wider than that of Chapter 7. On other words, medical isotopes are subject to Chapter 9 provisions but not to those in Chapter 7.

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