The Tory party decision to bring forward a vote on replacing Trident is rank hypocrisy. The referendum vote, which was billed as ‘getting our country back’ by the most unbridled of the Leave leaders. But replacing Trident is a colossal waste of money for non-independent weapons of mass destruction. It ties Britain even closer the US military. The US has not even had its Chilcot moment. Officially, its position is that nothing has gone wrong in Afghanistan, and in Iraq or elsewhere. And who knows what military adventures the next US President might embark on.
The cost is truly enormous. Crispin Blunt, the Conservative chair of the foreign affairs select committee estimates the total cost of replacing Trident is £167 billion. The detailed estimate from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is that the total cost is actually £205 billion. Even at the lower estimate, this is over £2,500 for every woman, man and child in this country.
If this sum were used to fund public investment it could help to transform the current economic crisis and significantly raise living standards. The Trident replacement would support 11,500 jobs and any decision that risks jobs should be considered carefully. However decommissioning would take a number of years in which a fraction of the money spent on replacement could be used to create far more, and higher-paid jobs in blighted economic areas. There are serious and feasible proposals for defence diversification for the entire UK, which would ensure that skills and jobs are not lost.
The Trident replacement system is not independent. It relies on US satellite targeting systems. No US Administration would authorise its use without itself being involved in nuclear war. It is therefore an adjunct of the US nuclear capability. As a result, it makes us more of a target than we would otherwise be.
Countries such as Germany, Sweden, Spain and many others see no need for nuclear weapons. South Africa gave them up and Argentina and Brazil agreed not to enter a nuclear arms race many years ago. They are all safer as a result.
The government’s own analysis suggests that the type of submarine-based nuclear weapons that are planned will be easily disrupted by the advances in cyber warfare. The truth is that nuclear weapons are weapons of a bygone era, useless in defending us from the actual threat we will face in future years, not just cyber warfare but from weaponised drones, chemical warfare and ISIS-style terrorism. They are extremely expensive analog weapons in a digital age.
Yet again, we are taking an enormously costly and consequential decision because the Tories want to play games. This is yet another decision which makes us worse off and produces no positive benefit. Replacing Trident is dangerous and makes us less safe.