Despite the commitment in the Coalition Agreement to replace our ageing Trident weapons system, the Deputy Prime Minister’s recent comments on the “huge, huge” sums involved have reopened the debate on whether Britain needs an independent nuclear deterrent.
Azeem Ibrahim wrote this piece on ConHome a fortnight ago on the financial implications of replacing Trident. But let us be in no doubt. Whatever the final cost of renewal, Britain must maintain an independent, submarine-based nuclear weapons system.
Whilst we are not the power we once were, we still have a strong voice on the world stage by virtue of our economic might, our strong relations with other major countries (most notably the US) and because we have the bomb.
When the UN Security Council was established in 1946 only the US possessed the bomb, but it is no coincidence that the five permanent members are now all nuclear powers. Trident is what separates us – and the same goes for France – from the second rank of European powers. Abandoning our nuclear deterrent would jeopardise our seat at the Security Council and the veto power that accompanies it. Whatever else we may think of the UN (and I believe that there is a lot wrong with it), the veto is a tangible strength and one coveted by many nations. In this way, reducing our hard power capability also diminishes our soft power influence.