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Workington MP backs Euratom amendment to Brexit Bill

Sue Hayman MP
Sue Hayman MP

[S]ue Hayman, Member of Parliament for Workington, last night spoke in favour of New Clause 192 to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, during its committee stage in the House of Commons.

The new clause, tabled by the Labour Party, sought to keep Britain within the European Atomic Energy Community, also known as Euratom.

In her speech, Sue said: “I would like to speak to new clause 192, to which I have added my name, about Euratom. A number of Conservative Members have spoken with great knowledge about the nuclear industry today, and as chair of the all-party group on nuclear energy I invite them all to join us and to come to our meetings to share their knowledge.

“The nuclear industry is critical to my constituency in West Cumbria. Because of that, I have probably had an unusual inbox compared with most hon. Members, in that I have had a large number of direct emails from concerned constituents about the proposed withdrawal from the Euratom treaty. Those constituents are particularly concerned because of the significant negative impact that withdrawal could have on the nuclear industry in the UK. They believe it unnecessary and ill-considered, and are concerned that it will create great disruption in the nuclear industry at a time when we really need to be pressing forward with our nuclear new build programme.

“Euratom has had a significant role in establishing its members’ credibility and acceptability in the wider global nuclear community. A constituent has contacted me to say that he believes that exiting will have a significant impact on the cost and the duration of decommissioning, which is of course very important in West Cumbria because of Sellafield. They also believe that the nuclear new build programme at Moorside will be impacted. EDF Energy, which is building the Hinkley Point C project, has said that it believes that ideally the UK should stay in the treaty, as it provides a framework for complying with international standards for handling nuclear materials.

“On the issue of safety and materials, another constituent, who worked for very many years as a radiation protection adviser, has been in touch to share his concerns. He has wide experience of applying regulatory controls in workplaces including hospitals, the oil and gas industry, paper and plastics manufacturing, radiography, and the nuclear industry. He says that every one of these is considerably safer today as a result of Euratom — so this is not just about the nuclear industry directly. He goes on to say that he believes it is extremely short-sighted to remove the wealth of information and expertise that has resulted from our membership of Euratom.

“I am talking about what constituents who actually work in the industry are telling me. I would trust the judgment of my own constituents. In an intervention, I mentioned a constituent who works at the National Nuclear Laboratory, who says that leaving will impair his ability to collaborate with leading scientists and engineers across Europe, to the detriment of science and technology in this country. This is what my constituents are telling me. I trust my constituents.

“I do not understand why, when we have conflicting legal opinion on why we have to leave, the Government are insisting so much that we have to. We need to make sure that a rapid exit does not do serious harm to our nuclear industry. We have so much to lose, with so little to gain. I therefore ask Members to support new clause 192.”

At the end of proceedings, the House of Commons voted on New Clause 192, and rejected it, 336 to 287.

Responding to the result, Sue said: “I will keep working with colleagues to continue pressing ministers on the importance of Euratom to the British nuclear industry. So many constituents have been in touch with me on this, and I know many within the industry are greatly concerned about the implications of leaving Euratom. I hope the Government will think again.”

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