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Report | 13 July 2016

Trident replacement? Think Again

Image of Dr Nick Ritchie

Dr Nick Ritchie |Lecturer in International Security at the Department of Politics, University of York

Deterrence Nuclear Arms Control Nuclear Disarmament Nuclear Weapons United Kingdom Euro-Atlantic Security

Dr Nick Ritchie of the University of York criticises the security value of the British nuclear deterrent, arguing that its maintenance and renewal is detrimental to British security and the national discourse.

“The government seems likely to hold a vote in the House of Commons on the Successor ballistic missile submarine programme in the next few weeks before the summer recess begins on July 21. The vote will be primarily symbolic. It was originally construed as seeking parliamentary approval for a ‘main gate’ investment decision to move the Successor programme to the ‘demonstration and manufacture’ phase of procurement.

The Main Gate Business Case, to use Ministry of Defence vernacular, constitutes the main investment decision where the MOD commits to the full cost of a programme and contracts are negotiated with lead developers. The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, however, said government planned to move “away from a traditional single ‘Main Gate’ approach, which is not appropriate for a programme of this scale and complexity, to a staged investment programme.” This reflects ongoing challenges with the programme’s management, costings and resourcing that has resulted in a decision to establish a new MoD team responsible for ‘all aspects of the defence nuclear enterprise’.

Consequently, the promised parliamentary vote has been downgraded to a vote on ‘the principal of the renewal of the deterrent’. Nevertheless, a vote is coming and with it the question once again of whether the UK should stay in the nuclear weapons business or rethink. I will summarise here four inter-related reasons to rethink: security, risk, cost, and militarism.”


The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security challenges of our time.