UK to increase nuclear stockpile limit


On 16 March, the United Kingdom announced that it would increase its limit on its nuclear arsenal for the first time in decades. Instead of decreasing its nuclear stockpile to 180 warheads in the mid 2020s, the United Kingdom will increase its stockpile cap to 260 warheads - a 40% increase.

While most of the world’s countries have declared that nuclear weapons are illegal, the United Kingdom is moving in the wrong direction to increase its stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. 

The United Kingdom is currently engaged in a costly and lengthy project to build new nuclear-capable submarines, which it bases off the coast of Scotland, despite Scottish resistance to the bomb. In 2019 alone, the United Kingdom spent $8.9 billion on its nuclear weapons.

This decision to increase its nuclear weapons stockpile, announced as part of its Ingegrated Review, flies in the face of UK promises under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to disarm, as well as the prohibitions in the TPNW on possessing, developing and producing nuclear weapons.

Beatrice Fihn, ICAN Executive Director, stated: “A decision by the United Kingdom to increase its stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in the middle of a pandemic is irresponsible, dangerous and violates international law. While the British people are struggling to cope with the pandemic, an economic crisis, violence against women, and racism, the government choses to increase insecurity and threats in the world. This is toxic masculinity on display.”

“While the majority of the world’s nations are leading the way to a safer future without nuclear weapons by joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the United Kingdom is pushing for a dangerous new nuclear arms race.”

Meanwhile, the majority of the public stands behind the members of parliament and cities, including Manchester and Oxford, that are calling on the UK to join the TPNW. UK policy should follow the will of the people and international law and reject nuclear weapons for good.

Ben Donaldson, Head of Campaigns for ICAN Partner Organisation UNA-UK, said, “This decision is imbibed in a toxic combination of militarism and hubris. We need the UK Government to invest in measures to combat climate change and pandemics, not trigger a dangerous new nuclear arms race.

The UK’s shocking expansion of its nuclear weapons capability comes without explanation of how this is in the national or global interest. It is tone deaf to the lack of domestic consent for such a move where Scotland’s First Minister and Government are unambiguously committed to the TPNW, cities including Manchester, Edinburgh, Oxford, Brighton and Hove, Norwich and Leeds, have signed up to support the Treaty’s implementation and the majority of the UK public think that Britain should sign up to the TPNW.”

heading photo: The Steve | Flickr | CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0