FAQs: What do the Liberal Democrats think about Trident?

Want to know where the Liberal Democrats stand on Trident & Nuclear Weapons? Find out here:

By Greg Foster,

We want a world free of nuclear weapons.

We are strong internationalists, committed to NATO, the European Union and the United Nations and as such, we believe that a nuclear-free world is best achieved through co-operating with the UK’s allies, and not by walking away from the nuclear table.

While global security situation is a complex one, with Russia’s increasing militarism giving cause for alarm, along with Trump’s cynicism towards NATO and chronic instability in the Middle East, we do not believe that the UK’s nuclear deterrent needs to be in the same posture as during the Cold War.

Our proposal would make a step down the nuclear ladder.

In practice, this means discontinuing continuous at-sea deterrence (CASD), while maintaining a minimum deterrent and moving to three submarines, away from the Government’s plan to have four.

 

This sounds like a part-time deterrent. How is that different to what Jeremy Corbyn wants?

Our policy would end CASD, meaning that the UK’s submarines would patrol at irregular intervals, rather than constantly being on the seas as they are now.

The UK’s adversaries will not know when our submarines were at sea, so the deterrent is maintained – they will not know if we can retaliate and so would not risk a nuclear strike.

Unlike Jeremy Corbyn, we believe that our submarines must be armed when at sea.

Sending submarines to sea unarmed, and saying that they are unarmed, makes no sense. It would not provide an effective deterrent and would merely cost the taxpayer money.

How does a part-time deterrent keep us safe?

Our proposal would provide the same deterrent as the UK’s current deterrent while taking a step down the nuclear ladder.

Our adversaries will not know when our submarines are patrolling, or when they are armed.

The UK will retain our second-strike capability to retaliate, meaning any potential adversary would continue to be deterred from attacking us.

Can Britain make a difference when it comes to reducing global weapons stocks?

Yes.

Britain’s role as a member of the UN Security Council and NATO (a nuclear alliance) makes us uniquely placed to play a role in strengthening the framework for the long-term elimination of nuclear weapons.

Through negotiations, the UK could play a vital role in making the world a safer place, including reducing holdings of weapons-grade plutonium and urging our allies to sign up to the Test Ban Treaty.

Will your policy lead to job cuts at Faslane and Barrow?

By 2017-25, the purchase of equipment for the first two submarines is expected to be underway.

We would also consider what conventional defence roles the Dreadnought fleet could take on if we were to reduce the number of nuclear weapons-armed submarines on patrol.

Our proposal would not mean construction at Barrow would cease, and Faslane would still be critical to the operation of the Dreadnought programme.

Is it time to decommission our nuclear deterrent?

No.

We will not achieve our aim of a world free of nuclear weapons by walking away from the table. By using its influence in NATO and through the P5 process, the UK can play a leading role in reducing global stocks of nuclear weapons, amidst a backdrop of an uncertain world.

We believe that the UK’s best interests are served by being at the heart of NATO – which is a nuclear alliance. It would be irresponsible for us, and alarming for our NATO allies, if we reject the option to step in times of crisis.

Would stepping up from a medium-readiness responsive posture in times of international uncertainty not simply inflame the situation?

No.

Unlike the contingency posture, we would not have a declaratory policy of only sending submarines to sea unarmed during peacetime.

Instead, the medium-readiness posture provides an effective deterrent because it is ambiguous.

Put simply – our adversaries would not know when armed submarines would be patrolling, and nor would they know if we decided to increase the frequency of patrols.


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