ICAN UK Press Release
16 March 2021
Today’s announcement of a dramatic increase in the UK nuclear arsenal reverses Britain’s longstanding principles and commitments to non-proliferation, disarmament and international security.
The UK’s Integrated Review, published today, abandons the UK’s previous commitment of a cap of operational nuclear warheads set at 120, and raises the overall cap on the UK’s stockpile from 180 to 260 – an increase of more than 40%. The UK says the move is necessary due to the “evolving security environment” without giving any evidence how more warheads will protect British citizens.
This unwarranted change of direction will be a huge blow to UK allies in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of which the UK was a founder member 50 years ago. The NPT, which is set to meet later this year for a crucial 5 yearly Review Conference, requires the UK and 190 states to work in good faith to prevent proliferation and accomplish the elimination of all nuclear weapons.
The UK government’s decision to enhance nuclear weapons will also raise global security concerns and strain relations with over 130 states that support the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – a new treaty which makes nuclear weapons illegal under international law and which entered into force in January this year.
This dangerous decision panders to right wing ‘punch above weight’ ideologies that have nothing to do with British security. It flies in the face of Britain’s genuine security needs and appears ignorant of the widespread and increasing opposition to the UK’s continued possession of nuclear weapons:
- Scotland’s First Minister and Government are unambiguously committed to the TPNW, seeking to be in a position to join and publicly oppose all aspects of the UK’s nuclear weapons policy including the transportation of lethal warheads between Faslane, Coulport, and Berkshire’s bomb factories, Aldermaston and Burghfield.
- Major international banks and financial institutions are divesting from nuclear weapons production, informed by ICAN’s “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” campaign.
- Cities across Britain, including Manchester, Edinburgh, Oxford, Brighton and Hove, Norwich and Leeds, have signed up to support the Treaty’s implementation. Many more Councils will follow.
- Since October, Anglican and Catholic leaders in the UK and a range of Scottish and other UK celebrities have openly endorsed the TPNW and called on the UK government to change its stance.
- 59% of the UK public think that Britain should sign up to the Treaty, while 77% support a total global nuclear weapons ban, according to new polling by Survation for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Dr Rebecca Johnson, co-coordinator of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) UK partners, said:
“Increasing nuclear weapons will undermine British security when responsible governments around the world are prioritising Covid, cyber threats and the climate emergency. This dangerous nuclear step will become another of Boris Johnson’s reckless and expensive mistakes. It will undermine the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty], alienate Britain’s allies and increase fears that the UK is on a hell bent road to sabotage our future and the collective norms and laws on which our security depends.”
Ben Donaldson, Head of Campaigns at UNA-UK said:
“The Integrated Review’s combination of militarism and hubris is toxic and this decision feels like a move to impress a second Trump administration that never came to pass rather than a responsible step to protect British citizens. We need the UK Government to invest in measures to combat climate change and pandemics, not trigger a dangerous new arms race. It will strain diplomatic relations with over 130 countries who oppose nuclear weapons, it contradicts the UN Secretary-General’s call for accelerated progress on disarmament and it undermines the UK’s claim to be a responsible member of the UN Security Council.”
Janet Fenton, Scottish co-coordinator of ICAN’s UK partners said:
“The UK has now abandoned any pretence of gradual nuclear disarmament for the sake of a provocative and arrogant policy that puts the world and any possibility of addressing the climate emergency at risk. Scotland has a special concern, as the UK’s nuclear weapons are hosted here, despite the clear opposition of the Scottish Government. At Scotland’s May election, voting for candidates who will prioritise nuclear disarmament in Scotland (and, consequently, in the UK as a whole) will be at the top of the agenda.”