Author Archives: Jamie Stone

Jamie Stone writes: The UK’s nuclear deterrent

The question of the party’s stance on nuclear weapons has often been a hot topic at conference.

Our most recent policy was passed in 2017. It committed the party to supporting a step down the nuclear ladder – with a move away from the current continuous patrols of Trident submarines, to a stance where submarines are not continuously deployed. The thought was that this would require the construction of three new Trident submarines, rather than the planned four.

Spring 2017 now feels like a very long time ago – indeed, since that policy was passed we’ve had two elections (and three Prime Ministers), Brexit, the Trump presidency, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

I was asked by the FCC and the FPC to write a spokesperson’s paper, and an accompanying motion, to bring to Autumn Conference 2022. I consulted widely across the party and spoke to external experts too – thanks to everyone who helped inform the paper.

It was clear that the dramatic deterioration of security in Europe necessitated a review of our previous stance.

We have long been the most forward-thinking UK-wide party on global disarmament, and the 2017 policy is part of that tradition.

But we have also always argued for flexibility – indeed, our proposals always included the possibility that changes in the strategic environment might require steps up, as well as down, the nuclear ladder, were that necessary to keep the people of this country safe.

At a dangerous time such as this, we must be realistic. It’s clear that choosing to take a step down the nuclear ladder of the kind proposed in 2017 – in the face of Vladimir Putin’s veiled threats of nuclear use – would send entirely the wrong signal to that despot. It risks encouraging him to be even more gung-ho with his nuclear brinkmanship.

And it would send the wrong signal to our NATO allies, who are protected under our nuclear deterrent, about the UK’s willingness to come to their defence. At a time where we should be showing European leadership, it would instead send a message of insularity.

Nor would taking such a step in this environment do anything to improve the chances for global disarmament.

That’s why I am putting forward a new proposal – at the heart of which is for the UK to maintain the current posture of continuous, at-sea deployment. That would mean a Trident submarine patrolling UK waters at all times.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 40 Comments

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