Britain should rethink nuclear weapons policy


 Nearly three-quarters of opinion formers in Britain think the government should either scrap the country’s nuclear weapons or look for a cheaper alternative, according to a poll .

Just under a third of business leaders, politicians, academics and journalists polled by YouGov for the Chatham House think tank said Britain should abandon its nuclear deterrent after it expires in 2024.

This is higher than a fifth of ordinary voters polled by YouGov who want to scrap it.

The replacement of Britain’s submarine-launched Trident missile system is expected to cost at least 20 billion pounds, a sum critics say is unthinkable at a time of drastic spending cuts pushed by Prime Minister David Cameron, reports Reuters.

Most government departments have been told to prepare for cuts of around 25 percent to help reduce a record peacetime budget deficit. All large state projects are under scrutiny. The government is committed to replacing Trident but has launched a review into whether it can cut costs.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said on Tuesday that 20 billion pounds spread over a decade seemed “pretty good value.” He added the government would look at whether it could make do with three submarines instead of the current four.
“We would have to look at what technology was available to us and what risks we were taking as we came to make that decision, probably on that fourth submarine some time in 2014/15,” he told the Chatham House think tank.

Fox said his ministry faced “the mother of horrors of a spending review” as the government looks to rein in the deficit. A fifth of opinion makers questioned said they backed a straight replacement of Trident. More than four in 10 wanted a cheaper nuclear option, possibly an airborne weapon or a new deterrent carried by fewer submarines.

The current four Vanguard class submarines are likely to start leaving service in the early 2020s. The government estimates it will take about 17 years to design and build their replacement. The Conservative Party has long supported a new submarine-launched system, while their junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, wants a cheaper alternative.

The two parties agreed to push ahead with renewing the nuclear weapons, although the Lib Dems will be allowed to continue to make the case for finding another option.

The coalition said in May that Britain would for the first time set a 225-warhead limit on its nuclear stockpile. That coincided with a treaty agreed by the United States and Russia to cut their nuclear arsenals by a third.

YouGov also polled 2,500 ordinary voters and found that 29 percent wanted a like-for-like replacement, 30 percent favoured a cheaper system and 20 percent opted to scrap nuclear weapons.