Pro-EU campaigners say 'Brexit wet dream has hit reality' after Theresa May climbdown on atomic body

Posted On: 
21st May 2018

Theresa May has been accused of a major U-turn after she said Britain is ready to continue paying to remain part of a key nuclear safety body after Brexit.

Theresa May today said she wanted Britain to “fully associate” itself to the Euratom project and will “willingly” pay to do so
Credit: 
PA Images

A pro-EU campaign group said the apparent climbdown showed the “ideological wet dream” of Brexit supporters had “run slap bang into hard cold reality”.

In a speech laying out the future UK approach to sciences, the Prime Minister said she wanted Britain to “fully associate” itself to the Euratom project and will “willingly” pay to do so.

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It marks an about-turn from last year when ministers were insisting the UK should quit the atomic regulatory body after Brexit because they saw it as too closely tied to the European Court of Justice.

And it is a step further from March this year when the PM said in her landmark Mansion House speech that she only wanted “close association” with the body.

In her speech at the Jodrell Bank observatory in Manchester today, the Prime Minister said: "The United Kingdom would like the option to fully associate ourselves with the excellence-based European science and innovation programmes – including the successor to Horizon 2020 and Euratom R&T.

"It is in the mutual interest of the UK and the EU that we should do so. Of course such an association would involve an appropriate UK financial contribution, which we would willingly make."

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran - speaking on behalf of the Best for Britain campaign - welcomed the change of course, which will add to a bill worth billions for the UK to stick with a number of EU science bodies.

“What this shows is the Government's Brexit plans have hit the rocks and that Jacob Rees Mogg's ideological wet dream has run slap bang unto hard cold reality,” she said.

"To be a part of projects like this you have to be a part of the European Court of Justice. "Neither the public nor even the nuclear industry knew this was on the ballot paper.

"It’s not just nuclear safety and access to research that’s at stake. If we suspend, or even better cancel, exit from Euratom, we will have taken a step on the road to cancelling Brexit entirely."

In March the Office for Budget Responsibility said the UK bill for continued participation in EU science and education projects like Erasmus, Creative Europe and Horizon 2020 would be £2bn a year.