Late yesterday evening, the media leaked Boris Johnson’s review of defence and policy, ahead of his expected speech on the matter today (Tuesday 16th March.)
The review reveals Johnson’s plans to lift the cap on the number of Trident warheads the government is allowed to stockpile – by more than 40%.
This rearmament is totally unacceptable. It will cost the nation up to £10,000,000,000 – at a time of a pandemic, when the government claims that it cannot afford to increase nurses’ pay more than £3.50 a week in real terms.
The price, however, is more than just monetary. Each one of the nuclear warheads the government plans to buy – the number will go from 180 to 260 – puts us closer to a new nuclear arms race.
Although the UK has thus far resisted signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, it is already party to the International Non-Proliferation Treaty, which, as a Nuclear Weapons State, it ratified in 1998. Only last year, ambassador Jonathan Allen – the UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN – delivered a speech at the UN Security Council briefing on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (“NPT”). In this speech, Allen reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to non-proliferation as key to peace, stating that “the United Kingdom continues to believe that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, approaching its 50th anniversary, remains essential to the maintenance of a safe and secure world.”
Why, then, a mere year later, has Boris Johnson not only gone back on 30 years of disarmament, but dramatically increased the cap on Trident warheads – the very definition of proliferation, and a clear violation of the government’s responsibilities and commitment to non-proliferation? Ambassador Allen stated that commitment to the NPT has been crucial in discussions with Iran and North Korea. Does the government no longer care about the UK continuing discussions with those countries? Does, as it appears, the government wish to join them in a new nuclear arms race?
Every single warhead is capable of plunging the UK, and far wider afield, into a nuclear winter – and Boris Johnson wants to spend £10 billion on 80 of them. As the ambassador stated, non-proliferation is key to maintaining peace and security – which no longer seems to be this government’s priority.