Figures from the Tory, Liberal Democrat, and Labour parties have all criticised Theresa May's decision to take Britain out of the European nuclear regulator, Euratom, at the same time as leaving the EU.
Over the weekend, five nuclear scientists, including Roger Cashmore, the head of the UK Atomic Energy Agency, told BuzzFeed News that leaving Euratom would have negative impacts on British high-tech industries, nuclear fusion research, and the development of new nuclear power stations.
Dominic Cummings, the former campaign director for the official Vote Leave campaign, said on Twitter that the government were "MORONS" and that the decision was "UNACCEPTABLE BULLSHIT":
Earlier, the president of the Royal College of Radiologists, Nicola Strickland, told the Evening Standard that she was "seriously concerned" that leaving Euratom could lead to more expensive cancer treatments, because the radioactive isotopes used in radiotherapy and imaging could be harder to import.
The paper also reported that nine Tory MPs could vote against the government if it comes to a vote.
BuzzFeed News understands that if there is enough cross-party support, the Lib Dems will attempt to force a vote in the Commons to keep Britain in Euratom. Labour has told BuzzFeed News it is "definitely in favour of Euratom", but has not confirmed whether it will attempt to force a vote on the matter.
If Lib Dem, Labour, Green, and SNP MPs all vote against leaving, along with the reported rebel Tory MPs, they would be able to defeat the loyal Tories even if the DUP votes with the government.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the Lib Dems described the decision to leave Euratom as "needlessly gambling with the health of the British people". They said: "The government must listen to concerns raised by radiologists and act urgently to protect access to vital treatments after Brexit.
"Cancer patients deserve to know that their treatment will not be disrupted by the reckless decision to pull out of Euratom.
"The Liberal Democrats will work together with others in parliament to oppose Theresa May's extreme Brexit plans and keep Britain in Euratom and the single market."
The Labour MP Rachel Reeves and the former Tory minister Ed Vaizey told The Guardian that membership of Euratom is "vital" for the British nuclear industry. Reeves said: "It is time for the government to rethink this. Nobody voted to leave the EU to come out of Euratom, and no one would think the government was going soft on Brexit if they rowed back on this.”
It is not clear that it's possible to leave the EU without leaving Euratom. Cashmore of the UK Atomic Energy Agency told BuzzFeed News that legal opinions on the matter were divided: “There’s been lots of legal advice since the referendum. You can find some saying Euratom is tied to the EU and some saying it’s completely separate."
Tom Chivers is a science writer for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
Contact Tom Chivers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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