David Davis will push ahead with plans to pull Britain out of the European civil nuclear regulator during Brexit talks in Brussels next week despite fears it could it could hit cancer treatments.
The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) has issued a fresh warning that anything hitting the supply and transport of radioactive isotopes widely used in scans and other treatment could cause delays for patients.
But the Government said European Union treaties are “uniquely legally joined“ with Euratom and insisted there is a “strong mutual interest” for close co-operation once the UK has left the bloc.
In the second round of negotiations with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, Mr Davis will call for minimised civil nuclear trade barriers after the divorce.
Papers setting out the Brexit Secretary’s position say the UK is “keen to discuss this as quickly as possible” and wants a “smooth transition” with no interruptions in the safeguard arrangements.
The RCR said it remains concerned over the disruption of supply of medical materials once the UK is outside the nuclear common market, through higher costs, increased regulation or trade barriers.
Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association, said: “While containing very little detail, the UK Government’s position paper demonstrates the complexity of replicating Euratom arrangements in UK regulation and co-operation agreements with third countries which the industry has warned of.
“Government must therefore make the need for transitional arrangements its starting point in negotiations. Failure to do so will risk precisely the disruption the government state they want to avoid.
“It remains the UK nuclear industry’s view that retaining Euratom membership will best serve the national interest. It may also be the most straightforward, seamless and sensible way to achieve the government’s stated preferred outcome is through the associated membership the Euratom treaty enables. Exploring that should be a priority in discussions with European institutions.
“The government has also said it wishes to provide “certainty and clarity” to industry. Given the lack of clarity to date, it is imperative now that the government ensures there is regular and ongoing dialogue with industry so there is a full appreciation of the practical, logistical and administrative consequences of these negotiations.”