Observations of an ex pat: Brexit goes nuclear, chapter 2

She’s done it. Mrs May has gone and linked Britain’s nuclear deterrent to Brexit trade negotiations.

I can honestly stick out my chest, jut out my chin and proclaim: “I told you so. And I told you exclusively.”

Alright, Mrs. May didn’t actually use the n-word in her letter to the European Commission which triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and the start of Brexit negotiations. But in just one document she explicitly linked economic concessions with security issues nine times.

It requires only the smallest leap of imagination to realise that the British Prime Minister was talking about more than exchanges of DNA databases with continental police.

But be warned, the consequences of this link will be dire. Messing with the balance of strategic weapons capable of incinerating the world several times over is a dangerous policy.

Mrs May knows that, but the problem is that nuclear missiles are just about the only weapon the British have in their negotiating armoury. Their backs are against the wall.

There is, of course, a question mark, over whether or not the UK will be allowed to play the security card. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it crystal clear that she opposes negotiations on any future relationship until the terms of the divorce are settled. That means Britain has to cough up $60 billion, allow EU citizens to remain in Britain and accept that it will no longer be part of the European Single Market. All this before any talks on a future relationship which may or may not involve security. This is a direct contradiction of Mrs May’s tandem approach.

Assuming that Mrs May’s simultaneous approach wins the day, what are the possible repercussions? In short, tying trade to nuclear weapons is a dangerous precedent. Offering to strengthen Britain’s nuclear ties to Europe weakens the American link on which European security has been based for the past 60-plus years. And it turns Britain into a mercenary nuclear state.

It is an accepted truism that if a nuclear weapons state uses its nuclear weapons it has lost the war. The weapons are the ultimate deterrent and to be used ONLY in that capacity. Linking the nuclear umbrella to trade concessions creates an entirely new nuclear playing field.

Where does it stop? Does Britain strike a deal with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to protect them from Iran? The British have just reopened a permanent naval base in Bahrain. How about East Africa? The Americans lease Diego Garcia but the British still own it. London has great relations with Singapore, an excellent base for an Asian presence.
And what about other nuclear weapons states? What is to stop India, Pakistan, France, Russia, China, and the United States from using their nukes to extract trade concessions. It will cost more but the trade deals – or should I say protection money–should more than cover the costs. with a profit—adding a new and dangerous element to the problem of nuclear non-proliferation.

A stronger nuclear Britain willing to flex its muscles fits in nicely with the Trump view of the world. During his campaign The Donald shocked defence analysts by floating the idea that America cut costs and commitments by supplying nuclear weapons to allies such as Japan and Saudi Arabia.

It is now making more positive noises about NATO, but the initial threats still rankle at the back of the minds of European leaders. Beefing up the British nuclear deterrent and tying it closer to Europe would save America money.

However, it would also put several more links in the defensive chain that ties the US to the protection of Europe.
The Trump Administration may favour such a change, but this is not in the interest of either side of the Atlantic. Two World Wars have proven that. In both of them America adopted a stand-off role at the start. However, the fact that their interests were clearly intertwined with the European democracies meant that Washington was eventually forced to intervene to protect its vital national interests.

If there is ever another war, the United States won’t have the luxury of years to dither.

Mrs May has opened a Pandora’s box and let loose a whole new set of evils.

* Tom Arms is membership secretary for Tooting Lib Dems. He also broadcasts on foreign affairs for US Radio, regularly contributes to Lib Dem Voice, lectures and is working on a book on Anglo—American relations which is due to be published next year.

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14 Comments

  • ethicsgradient 31st Mar '17 - 9:09am

    Utter Nonsense.

    have you forgotten that France is also an independent Nuclear weapons power? It is the American Nuclear umbrella which protects Europe. The British Trident system is only a part of this as is the french Nuclear arsenal.

    Nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons defense is clearly not being included here. Simply because it has nothing to do with the EU it is a NATO thing.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Mar '17 - 9:35am

    Could it be that GCHQ is more effective than some of the equivalents in the EU27?
    Could it be that UK access to information from Five Eyes is involved?

  • Bill le Breton 31st Mar '17 - 9:45am

    Your previous warning was well made Tom.

    Germany will do everything it can in order not to be forced into the lead military role for Europe. It is a strongest leverage.

    My only surprise is that she thought she needed to voice it outside of the negotiating room and at this stage. The pressure on Germany was there without her speaking making it specific.

    Brexit maybe forcing changes, but it is as a result of first order changes that Brexit is a response.

    A band of chaos – which some have called Chaosland – girdles the globe, its northern border abuts southern Europe, but it affects all countries to its northern and southern boarders.

    Global warming is and will continue to stir the forces of chaos in Chaosland. We have not ‘seen anything yet’. The EU cannot cope with that pressure to its southern and Eastern boarders.

    Its Leaders’ instincts will react with a dash for political union, unified boarder services, a European Army and ultimately a President of Europe (with teeth).

    I would rather the UK (as the US did in WW1) kept its distance from that process, helped where it could, but without surrendering its command and control of its resources.

    We shall get a reasonable deal over the next 7 years (the latter 5 of them as an interim deal). The picture will be clearer by 2025. The Germanification period for Europe will also be a temporary fix. Then longer term solutions may be falling into place.

    Right now, we are in a good position, that is, a better position than pre June 2016.

  • We cooperate on security because it is in our own interests to do so. May is cutting off the UKs nose to spite its face.

  • ethicsgradient 31st Mar '17 - 10:52am

    @Tom Arms

    No worries Tom. I’ve not read your previous article (I’ll endeavour to do so later).

    Straight up though, I don’t see the issue of nuclear weapons in play or being any part of Brexit negotiations. I see them as a step above in geo-political strategy and a combined whole-western world alliance thing sheltering under the american nuclear umbrella. That includes Europe, Japan, areas of south east asia/pacific and american areas of influence. In my view just nothing to do with brexit.

    I think what May is hinting at is the ease and flow of intelligence, information and cross-boarder police cooperation might get hindered if an acrimonious negotiations leads to barriers going up between the two sides.

    I don’t think we are saying that the UK is going to withdraw this co-operation. It would be more if fussy burocacy started to get in the way. needing a form for this, a request for that. Rather than more friction less flow of info.

    We have extremely useful assests in the ability of particularly GCHQ and 5 eyes information gathering ability. Would it still go through Europol or revert back to passing though interpol (I’m no expert but guess it is slower and less frictionless flow?).

    The other part which is in play is our standard conventional army (not nukes), which in comprision to the rest of Europe is the only significant force along with France. Again co-operation would be through NATO, but would an acrimonious Brexit split make this naturally more difficult politically? That would not be a threat of redrawl, more about selling and eastern european intervention to the UK public when they are feeling potentially bruised from a rough deal from the EU.

  • ethicsgradient 31st Mar '17 - 11:41am

    @Tom,

    Hi,

    So I’ve read your first article and then this one again. I thought the first was a well written interesting premise. this second article is, for myself, a bit hyperbolic. to discuss your arguments though.

    I think fundamentally I disagree with America disengaging with Europe in terms of potentially withdrawing the Nuclear Umbrella or coming to the defense of a fellow NATO member. I think this because the American top brass and the american system of separation of powers means for all of Trumps rhetoric, America is not withdrawing it support for NATO. From that point I then think your further notion of UK/France providing the nuclear protection for Europe becomes void.

    I do think Trump has a point about NATO though. At his core he is a businessman and he just doesn’t understand why other NATO countries do not honour their commitment of 2% spending on defense and rely on America to pick up the slack. He’s right. There are a lot of countries getting a cheap/free ride on American military power because they know in the great geo-political game it would be mad for America to disengage from Europe. Trump plays hard ball, but he just wouldn’t be able to do this.

    To reaffirm my post from above. I just don’t see nukes being in play in the brexit negotiation

  • I am not convinced about the 2%. America has forces in the Pacific that are not under NATO control and could not be relocated to the Atlantic in time if there is a crisis. Other smaller EU countries military spending is very local.

  • What Mrs May has said is that if we don’t get a ‘deal’ we will let your men women and children get blown up by terrorists or we may not be their to protect you from the bogey man to the east. NICE!! What a way to instill good will into the negotiations. What a way to project our values. The woman is a disgrace.

  • David Evans 31st Mar '17 - 1:21pm

    While agreeing with P.J. on much of his assessment of Theresa May, we all have to accept that the EU are being just as bad. Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are simply saying “We will not negotiate with you on what is important to the UK, until you have negotiated and settled on what is important to us.”

    Equally, that approach does not instill good will into the negotiations and it certainly does not project our values into things.

  • Not so sure about Tom’s take on things, to me the important point he (and many others) seems to have missed is the significance of and ramifications of the explicit withdrawal from the EAEC (European Atomic Energy Community, aka Euratom) also contained in May’s letter to the EU. From various nuclear industry related articles, my understanding is that this effectively means the UK is withdrawing from many existing treaties (negotiated by EAEC) concerning nuclear technology, which will need to be renegotiated prior to Brexit, if withdrawal isn’t to negatively impact the UK nuclear industry.

  • Steve Trevethan 31st Mar '17 - 4:29pm

    Is our “nuclear deterrent” independent, reliable and under our guidance systems?
    If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, is it a delusion and not a real weapon?

    Is the “demand” for a GNP 2% NATO contribution a way of boosting the US economy through its arms industry?

    Is the real purpose of NATO to control Europe, keep it subservient to the “American Empire” and to further that “Empire” in other parts of the World such as the Middle East?
    The Maastricht Treaty included provision for the creation of an independent European Defence and Security Policy and separate “Europe only” command structure. Washington saw this as a direct threat to America’s global power. It then covertly triggered events in Yugoslavia that exploded into a violent war in Europe that smashed the belief that European countries could live together in peace and prosperity without American involvement.
    “The events in and around Yugoslavia would be used to push the extension of NATO to the very steps of Moscow and beyond.” [The Lost Hegemon: F William Engdahl]
    http://www.williamengdahl.com/books.php

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