On Monday, in her first appearance in Parliament since becoming the U.K. Prime Minister, Theresa May successfully won the vote for a measure to authorize the renewal of the country’s nuclear arsenal and the Trident Nuclear Program.
The vote signifies Britain’s commitment to remain a global power despite their upcoming withdrawal from the European Union.
In her statement in the House of Commons, May told lawmakers that it would be a “gross irresponsibility” not to replace the nation’s aging nuclear missiles and the submarines that transport them and accused critics of the measure of being “the first to defend the country’s enemies.” May also took the opportunity to highlight the unity of her own Conservative Party on the subject, unlike the divided opposition Labor Party.
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who voted against the measure warned of the immense negative effects that utilizing an “indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction” would cause. Other members of his party felt that it would be unacceptable for Members of Parliament to abstain from voting. On the Conservative side, Prime Minister May warned of the threat that Britain must deal with and insisted that the nuclear threat in the world had “not gone away, if anything it has increased,” therefore “we cannot afford to relax our guard.”
Lawmakers voted in support for updating and renewing the system by a vote of 472-117.
Prior to votes being casted, defense secretary, Michael Fallon, made it clear that Britain would need to work hard to reassure its allies of its commitment to foreign policy after British voters ignored the requests of international leaders to remain in the European Union. “We are still around, and we have to demonstrate that leadership all over again,” Mr. Fallon told reporters. “We will do more in NATO to compensate,” Mr. Fallon added, mentioning France, Germany and the United States as current allies with whom Britain would seek to deepen their defense cooperation.
The decision to renew the Trident program also raises another problem for Britain in the near future with the country’s fleet of nuclear submarines being based in Scotland. If Britain goes through with its withdrawal from the EU, the possibility of Scotland holding another independence referendum becomes more likely. This raises the question of how Britain will retain its nuclear capabilities if Scotland were to leave the United Kingdom.
In Parliament, May disclosed to lawmakers that she would be willing to authorize the use of the Trident system if necessary, adding that she plans to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defence. This 2 percent promise is in accordance with a NATO guideline that U.S President Barack Obama has consistently pressed for European members of NATO to meet.
The renewal of Britain’s nuclear deterrent program will have an initial cost of approximately $41 billion with an additional $13.2 billion set aside for contingencies.