current affairs

Trident renewal

On the 19th of July, MP’s voted to renew the United Kingdon’s nuclear weapons system Trident meaning four replacement submarines have had approval to be manufactured, costing the government an estimated £31 billion. The House of Commons backed the renewal by 472 votes to 117. At a time when the economy is on unstable ground and we have other pressing issues that still need resolving, such as the NHS and education system, why are we spending so much on something that is highly likely we will never use?

Trident and it’s History

Trident is a set of submarines, which one at a time are located somewhere in the ocean, they all carry nuclear weapons, consisting of three parts – submarines, missiles and warheads. Each submarine carries as many as eight Trident missiles, and can each be directed at different targets. 

The idea of Trident is to deter any nuclear attacks on the UK by other countries, it also acts as a second form of defence if the nations conventional defence capabilities are comprimised or destroyed. Allowing Britain to launch a retaliation on the aggressor, an idea referred to as mutually assured destruction. 

The system was bought about in the early 1980’s by Margaret Thatcher’s government, in order to replace a previous weapons system. However, Trident never became fully operational until the 1990’s and, although not likely to be considered obsolete until late 2020’s, work on the replacement must start immediately, as development of the new submarines could take up to 17 years. 

Why should we replace Trident?

More than ever before the UK and rest of the world face an unstable environment, both politically and socially. As a country, it is argued by many government officials and defence experts, the UK needs to make desicions now, this ensures we have the option of defence and deterrence in the future. 

Growing threats from rogue states and terrorist organisations means that new threats could arise at anytime and maintaining our nuclear deterrance will help towards countering them.

Not only is there the defence and deterrant arguement, but the economic factors. The nuclear defence industry is a major employer and the scrapping of Trident could mean up to 15,000 jobs being lost.

Why shouldn’t we replace Trident?

There are two main reasons to support Trident not being replaced. One of the key debates is the subject of ethical grounds, those who object to these weapons believe that the UK should never threaten to use nuclear weapons on any country, even in the most extreme situation, because the consequences on humanity are so severe, according to Rusi’s Andrea Berger. 

The other main objection is cost. It is argued by many that the expense of renewing Trident could be better spent else where, particularly within the NHS and particularly at a time when some question the idea that these missiles are likely to never be launched, at least not until they are due for renewal once again.

There’s no doubt that the cost of these weapons could be spent elsewhere and on more everyday issues, but with increasing threats from around the world, can we really take the risk of not being able to defend ourselves to the very end?

What do you think? Have your say in the comments below.