Author Archives: Toby Fenwick

Why the Party should reject calls to sign to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

In July 2017, a UN Conference on Nuclear Weapons comprised of 124 states voted 122 – 1 – 1 in favor of creating a Treaty to ban nuclear weapons; only The Netherlands voted against, and Singapore abstained. Though the Conference Vote itself results in no legal obligations on the UN Member States, the Treaty opened for signature on 20 September 2017.  As of today, 59 states have signed it, and 11 have ratified it; 90 days after 50 states have ratified the Treaty, it will come into force – currently a distant prospect.

Kevin White wrote an article for LDV on 11 July highlighting his second attempt backed by 156 party members to get FCC to consider a motion at Autumn Conference committing the Party to “to campaign for the UK to add its name to the list of signatories to the Treaty” – and presumably ratify the Treaty.

Speaking as a multilateralist who has consistently opposed Trident replacement on the grounds that it is too expensive – it will consume between a quarter and a third of the MoD procurement budget each year between now and the mid-2030s – and Trident is a level of capability that the UK no longer needs. As an academic international lawyer, I understand the attraction of a Treaty that would ban nuclear weapons and lead to global nuclear zero – an aspiration that I fully support.

Posted in News | Tagged | 13 Comments

Nuclear weapons policy: Multilateralism remains the most viable route

Members of the Nuclear Weapons Working Group are presenting their personal views as part of a wider consultation process into the party’s future policy on nuclear weapons. The full consultation paper can be found at and the consultation window runs until 28 October. Party members are invited to attend the consultation session at party conference in Brighton, to be held on Saturday 17 September at 1pm in the Balmoral Room of the Hilton.

Last year, Conference agreed to review our nuclear weapons policies. As a party member committed to achieving a nuclear weapons free Britain in a nuclear weapons free world, I am honoured to serve on the working group established by the Federal Policy Committee.

The group has heard from a range of experts, and two things have been very clear to me. First, the case for replacing Trident with Trident hasn’t been made; many of the strategic and operational criticisms I laid out in Retiring Trident (March 2015) remain valid, and since it was published, the capital costs have increased by 25% and now total at least £41bn.

Posted in News | 84 Comments

Would air strikes against Syria be legal?


This week, it is likely that the Commons will be asked to approve RAF strike missions against ISIL/Daesh targets inside Syria. LDV readers will be familiar with Tim Farron’s five tests but here I’m going to focus only on the first: would such strikes be legal?

(NB. If it is, each target would be subject to the normal targeting rules of proportionality – ie, the use of force must be proportionate to the military advantage to be gained, and discrimination, – ie, that you may only attack military and not civilian targets.)

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 27 Comments

Trident renewal is not justified, but our policy must be coherent and multilateralist

Next spring, Parliament will debate and vote on whether to replace the UK’s ageing Trident submarines at a cost of approximately £30bn, in the so-called Main Gate investment decision. Operating the submarines and Trident through to the late 2050s will bring the total cost to more than £100bn.

I have consistently opposed the renewal of Trident, and was very disappointed with the current fudge we adopted in 2013. Indeed, at the time, I wondered whether it was the most strategically incoherent policy ever adopted?

Today, I continue to oppose Trident renewal for four reasons:

First, I favour progressive multilateral nuclear disarmament, and continuing with Trident does not represent the spirit of the UK’s obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty;

Second, the threat that the Soviet Union could mount a conventional attack through West Germany and that the USA may not respond (strategic decoupling) died with German reunification in NATO in 1990;

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

The Independent View: A cheaper but credible alternative to Trident

TridentOne of the strange things about recent elections is the lack of debate about defence and international affairs. So far, the current election campaign is no exception, despite the reality that the choices the next Government makes will limit our strategic options over the next 30 years.

The key decision is whether or not to replace the existing Vanguard­-class Trident submarines at a capital cost of up to £33bn, £3.3bn of which has been spent thus far. A decision to pursue replacement would commit between a quarter and a third of the total Ministry of Defence (MoD) equipment budget to Trident – every year – from 2018 to 2032. It would deny the conventional forces of the investment that they need to remain capable of world-wide operations in support of the UN and regional peacekeeping and, where necessary, intervention and peace-enforcement.

Posted in The Independent View | 80 Comments

The Independent View: Scotland, vote no and let’s all move towards a Federal UK

Brazil v Scotland 22As an outsider, analysis about September’s Scottish Independence Referendum is something of a minefield. There is space to constructively critique the SNP’s proposals, but needs to recognise that I don’t have a vote, and that Lord Robertson-style hyperbole about a Scottish “cataclysm” is not just offensive – and for unionists, counterproductive – it is inaccurate, too.

So let me begin by making clear that in my CentreForum paper analysing Scottish independence published today, I believe that Scotland is perfectly capable of becoming an …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Tagged , , , and | 24 Comments

Opinion: Getting a better deal for consumers from nuclear power

Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant - Some rights reserved by John O DyerFollowing the vote at last September’s conference, the party now supports new-build nuclear power. This has been a hard road for many, but ultimately the UK needs to replace the 82% of UK nuclear generation capacity that is due to decommission by 2023. This is fully 51% of all UK low-carbon generating capacity, and unlike renewables today, nuclear can provide baseload generation.

It is this combination of baseload capability, capacity at lower cost than the cheapest renewables means that nuclear …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 27 Comments

Opinion: Ukraine – Next Steps

ukraineAn international affairs policy wonk could be forgiven for thinking that April Fools’ Day had come early. After all, the last 72 hours have seen the Russian Federation occupy Ukraine’s Crimea, and apparently threaten to attack Ukrainian forces in Crimea if they don’t surrender. Such an action is in direct violation of the 1994 Bucharest Memorandum, the OSCE’s Helsinki Final Act, and Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

The use of force without the explicit authorisation of the UN Security Council has a very specific name: aggression. The Nuremburg Tribunal described aggression as the “supreme international crime”: aggression starts wars, destroys lives and is a visceral attack on the international rule of law.

Simply, aggression is international gangsterism of the highest order.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 70 Comments

Opinion: Use devo-max to put the positive case for the Union

I have no doubt that should Scotland’s voters decide to plump for independence on 18 September, Scotland would become a functional nation state. For unionists to claim that Scotland isn’t capable of governing itself, or that it would immediately become a celtic version of Greece is insulting, inaccurate and unlikely to marshal any votes into the No column. Though I believe we are better together, unionists need to make a positive case in addition to exposing the SNP’s wilful distortions and wishful thinking.

That is why I welcome the clarity from the Chancellor (pdf), Ed Balls and our own Danny

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 20 Comments

Opinion: Go for a freefall nuclear force

Former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates recently decried the UK’s conventional force cuts making it clear that the UK’s ability to conduct global operations as a major US partner would be threatened. In doing so, Gates was pointing out the obvious implications of the Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Houghton’s December speech at the Royal United Services Institute.

I was therefore heartened by Sir Nick Harvey’s recent LDV post, where he accepts that the conventional force cuts will constrain the international role to which he aspires. He then logically makes the …

Posted in Op-eds | 27 Comments

Opinion: Looking forward to a post-Trident future

Amid general agreement on the thrust of Julie Smith’s Committee’s excellent paper, and gratitude that Nick Harvey and Danny Alexander have delivered unprecedented transparency on the UK’s nuclear options, next Tuesday’s debate on defence offers two sharply differing views of the future of Britain’s nuclear future.

On the one hand, there is Nick Harvey’s proposal to retain the Trident missiles, their warheads and associated infrastructure, but reducing our purchase of new Trident submarines from four to two. This means that from the early 2030s, the UK will no longer be able to mount the standing patrols of Continuous At-Sea Deterrence (CASD) …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 17 Comments

Opinion: A no-fly zone offers the best chance of success in Syria

The conflict in Syria has continued with greater or lesser public notice for more than two years now. In this time thousands have died, millions have been displaced within Syria and into neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. And the international community has done little or nothing, hamstrung by Russian support for Assad, Chinese support for non-intervention, and ultimately, lack of western interest.

The large-scale chemical attack in a Damascus suburb claiming at least 300 lives at once changed everything and nothing. Everything, in that such an egregious violation of the laws of armed conflict, along with President Obama’s previous warnings of …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

In depth: Was the 2003 invasion of Iraq illegal?

In responding to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s call for Tony Blair to face the International Criminal Court, I made clear my view that the 2003 Iraq invasion was an illegal – and criminal – act of aggression. John Rentoul of the Independent on Sunday angrily disputed this on the BBC World Service’s “World, Have your say”, and other commenters here on LDV have asked for an outline of my reasoning.

Aggression – known at Nuremburg as “crimes against

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 45 Comments

Opinion: Is Tutu right on Tony Blair?

Like so many of us for whom the anti-apartheid struggle was a political awakening in the 1980s, I revere Bishop Desmond Tutu. A voice of humanity, moderation and forgiveness when there was every chance that South Africa’s transition could have gone very differently, Tutu combines unsurpassed moral leadership with no political ambition.

It was therefore with great interest I awoke on Sunday to Tutu’s call for Tony Blair to face the International Criminal Court on charges for aggression resulting from the 2003 Iraq invasion. Tutu goes on to question why Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe should go to the ICC whilst Blair …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 41 Comments

Opinion: Can Corby smelt a new Coalition?

Louise Mensch’s resignation on 6 August has triggered a by-election in Corby on 15 November. Initially treated as a silly-season oddity, the likely Labour victory exposes the Coalition’s fragility post Cameron’s dropping of Lords Reform.

A tight Tory-Labour marginal, Corby has been a reliable bell-weather constituency since its creation in 1983. Retaken for the Conservatives by A-lister Louise Mensch in 2010, it has a Conservative majority of 1,951 on a swing of 3.6% – less than the 5.6% swing from Labour to Conservative across England as a whole. Given current national opinion polls, and the fact that the seat will be …

Posted in Op-eds and Parliamentary by-elections | Tagged and | 64 Comments

Opinion: A response to the Minister on Joint Strike Fighters

We can all welcome Nick Harvey’s work with Phillip Hammond in producing what appears to be the first balanced MoD budget since at least the 1997 Defence Review: time will tell if their projections hold water. However, Mr. Harvey’s article is redolent of MoD Press Office spin, and has several important elements that need debating. Moving back to the vertical take off and landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) – known as the F-35B – is hardly the panacea the Minister pretends: there were several reasons that the military warmly welcomed the switch to a conventional cats ‘n’ traps …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 20 Comments

Opinion: It’s time to scrap Trident

The world is a better place because of the role Britain plays internationally through aid, diplomacy and, when necessary, using force sanctioned by international law. It is worth remembering the many Libyans and Sierra Leoneans who are alive today because of the actions of Britain’s forces.

Yet at a time when the government is preparing to spend at least £25 billion on replacing our Trident nuclear weapons, it is making cuts to the conventional forces that make such interventions possible. There have been £74 billion of defence cuts to date, with another £3-5 billion due to be announced before the Easter …

Posted in The Independent View | Tagged , and | 20 Comments

The Independent View: How the Stephen Williams plans for the banks would work

Portman Capital, an independent corporate advisory firm, has been asked to comment upon the technical issues raised by Mark Pack’s column on Stephen Williams’ proposal to privatise RBS and Lloyds by distributing the shares to the public. Portman Capital is not politically aligned and its comments are intended to explain the technical feasibility of the proposal rather than its political aspects.

The proposal to distribute the shares to the UK people is innovative, and as the British people will participate without having to provide cash up front, it has fairness at its core. Over time, the scheme is likely to …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Nnconformistradical
    "In the current economic situation we should be more concerned about those who are really struggling" Seconded...
  • cim
    £50k/year is not the "squeezed middle", even if the tax threshold hasn't quite kept pace with inflation recently. According to the March figures from HMRC, onl...
  • Brad Barrows
    @expats Good point. And it is worth adding that while what the Chinese government did would have not broken the agreement if they had they waited until 2047 to...
  • Brad Barrows
    Unfortunately, this is another Liberal Democrat Press Release that could have been produced by the right wing of the Conservative Party. It may be smart politic...
  • Roland
    Without more details, it is hard to determine whether this is a good thing, or a bad thing. On the one hand it seems that people caught by the effective free...