United Kingdom

Nuclear-armed state

Possesses 215 nuclear weapons

Has not yet joined the TPNW

Summary

The United Kingdom has not yet signed or ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

 

Nuclear-weapon programme

The United Kingdom possesses approximately 215 nuclear weapons, which can be launched from its nuclear-capable submarines based off the coast of Scotland at Her Majesty’s Naval Base. One submarine is usually on patrol at any given time.

In 2019, the United Kingdom spent an estimated US$8.9 billion to build and maintain its nuclear weapons.

The United Kingdom tested 45 nuclear weapons between 1952 and 1991. From 1952 to 1963, the British government conducted 12 nuclear test explosions and up to 600 so-called “minor trials” in the South Australian desert and off the Western Australian coast. Between 1957 and 1962, the United Kingdom and the United States tested 33 nuclear weapons at Malden and Kiritimati islands in Kiribati.

 

National position

The United Kingdom has consistently voted against an annual UN General Assembly resolution since 2018 that welcomes the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and calls upon all states to sign, ratify, or accede to it “at the earliest possible date”.

Along with other nuclear-armed states, the United Kingdom has said that it does not accept any claim that [the treaty] contributes to the development of customary international law”. It has called on all states that are considering supporting the the treaty to reflect seriously on its implications for international peace and security.

Doctors from Medact and its global federation, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, meet in York in 2017. Photo: IPPNW

 

Political developments

More than 60 members of the House of Commons, along with dozens of members of the Scottish parliament and the Welsh assembly, have pledged to work for the United Kingdom’s signature and ratification of the treaty.

Many cities across the country, including Manchester, Brighton, Oxford, and Edinburgh, have also called on the government to join the treaty.

In July 2020, the first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, wrote that the Scottish government is firmly opposed to the possession, threat, and use of nuclear weapons and I have called on the UK government to sign and ratify the treaty.

Ahead of the treaty’s entry into force in January 2021, she said: An independent Scotland would be a keen signatory [to the treaty] and I hope the day we can do that is not far off.

 

Public opinion

A public opinion poll conducted in January 2021 by Survation on behalf of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament found that 59 per cent of Britons believe that their country should join the treaty, with just 19 per cent opposed to joining.

 

Treaty negotiations

The United Kingdom did not participate in the negotiation of the treaty at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and thus did not vote on its adoption. On the opening day of the negotiating conference, it joined the United States and several other states in protesting the treaty-making process.

In 2016, the United Kingdom voted against the UN General Assembly resolution that established the formal mandate for states to commence negotiations on “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

The United Kingdom actively discouraged other states, in particular its former colonies, from supporting the resolution.

A public opinion poll conducted by YouGov ahead of the treaty negotiations in 2017 found that 75 per cent of British people believed that their government should participate in the negotiations, with 9 per cent opposed to participating and 16 per cent undecided.

A Japanese paper crane sits on the empty desk of the United Kingdom during the treaty negotiations in New York in 2017. Photo: ICAN

ICAN campaigners meet in London in 2015 to discuss progress towards negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. Photo: ICAN

Nuclear-armed state

Possesses 215 nuclear weapons

Has not yet joined the TPNW

[HIGHLIGHTS]

Summary

The United Kingdom has not yet signed or ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

 

Nuclear-weapon programme

The United Kingdom possesses approximately 215 nuclear weapons, which can be launched from its nuclear-capable submarines based off the coast of Scotland at Her Majesty’s Naval Base. One submarine is usually on patrol at any given time.

In 2019, the United Kingdom spent an estimated US$8.9 billion to build and maintain its nuclear weapons.

The United Kingdom tested 45 nuclear weapons between 1952 and 1991. From 1952 to 1963, the British government conducted 12 nuclear test explosions and up to 600 so-called “minor trials” in the South Australian desert and off the Western Australian coast. Between 1957 and 1962, the United Kingdom and the United States tested 33 nuclear weapons at Malden and Kiritimati islands in Kiribati.

 

National position

The United Kingdom has consistently voted against an annual UN General Assembly resolution since 2018 that welcomes the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and calls upon all states to sign, ratify, or accede to it “at the earliest possible date”.

Along with other nuclear-armed states, the United Kingdom has said that it does not accept any claim that [the treaty] contributes to the development of customary international law”. It has called on all states that are considering supporting the the treaty to reflect seriously on its implications for international peace and security.

Doctors from Medact and its global federation, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, meet in York in 2017. Photo: IPPNW

 

Political developments

More than 60 members of the House of Commons, along with dozens of members of the Scottish parliament and the Welsh assembly, have pledged to work for the United Kingdom’s signature and ratification of the treaty.

Many cities across the country, including Manchester, Brighton, Oxford, and Edinburgh, have also called on the government to join the treaty.

In July 2020, the first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, wrote that the Scottish government is firmly opposed to the possession, threat, and use of nuclear weapons and I have called on the UK government to sign and ratify the treaty.

Ahead of the treaty’s entry into force in January 2021, she said: An independent Scotland would be a keen signatory [to the treaty] and I hope the day we can do that is not far off.

 

Public opinion

A public opinion poll conducted in January 2021 by Survation on behalf of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament found that 59 per cent of Britons believe that their country should join the treaty, with just 19 per cent opposed to joining.

 

Treaty negotiations

The United Kingdom did not participate in the negotiation of the treaty at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and thus did not vote on its adoption. On the opening day of the negotiating conference, it joined the United States and several other states in protesting the treaty-making process.

In 2016, the United Kingdom voted against the UN General Assembly resolution that established the formal mandate for states to commence negotiations on “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

The United Kingdom actively discouraged other states, in particular its former colonies, from supporting the resolution.

A public opinion poll conducted by YouGov ahead of the treaty negotiations in 2017 found that 75 per cent of British people believed that their government should participate in the negotiations, with 9 per cent opposed to participating and 16 per cent undecided.

A Japanese paper crane sits on the empty desk of the United Kingdom during the treaty negotiations in New York in 2017. Photo: ICAN

ICAN campaigners meet in London in 2015 to discuss progress towards negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. Photo: ICAN

[PARTNERS]

80000 voices

website


Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy 

website


Article 36 

website


British Pugwash 

website


Campaign Against Arms Trade 

website


Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament UK (CND)

website


Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Cymru

website


Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament 

website


Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre

website


Fellowship of Reconciliation

website


Greenpeace UK 

website


ICAN UK

website


Hastings Against War

website


Medact

website


Movement for the Abolition of War 

website


No Waste Alliance 

Nuclear Free Local Authorities

website


Nuclear Information Service 

website


Pax Christi British Section 

website


Quaker Peace & Social Witness 

website


Scientists for Global Responsibility (UK)

website


Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

website


Trident Ploughshares 

United Nations House of Scotland

website


Women's International League for Peace and Freedom 

website


World Court Project UK

Legacy of the Atomic Bomb. Recognition for Atomic Test Survivors (LABRATS)

website


Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

website


Pax Christi Scotland

website


Anglican Pacifist Fellowship

website


Hereford Peace Council

Pindex

website

[LOCALSUPPORT]

Support for TPNW in the United Kingdom Get involved with ICAN in the United Kingdom ›

ICAN Cities Appeal:

These cities, towns and provinces support the TPNW

Brighton and Hove
East Ayrshire
Edinburgh
Fife
Hastings Borough
Hebdon Royd Town
Lancaster
Leeds
Manchester
Newham
Norwich
Oxford
Renfrewshire
Shaw and Crompton
Tower Hamlets

 

Parliamentary Pledge

These are the elected officials that have taken the ICAN Parliamentary Pledge to support and promote the TPNW:

United Kingdom Parliament

→Hannah Bardell MP
→Mhairi Black MP
→Ian Blackford MP
→Kirsty Blackman MP
→Deidre Brock MP
→Alan Brown MP
→Ruth Cadbury MP
→Lisa Cameron MP
→Douglas Chapman MP
→Joanna Cherry MP
→Ronnie Cowan MP
→Angela Crawley MP
→Janet Daby MP
→Martyn Day MP
→David Drew MP
→Martin Docherty-Hughes MP
→Jonathan Edwards MP
→Marion Fellows MP
→Paul Flynn MP
→Stephen Gethins MP
→Patricia Gibson MP
→Patrick Grady MP
→Peter Grant MP
→Neil Gray MP
→John Grogan MP
→Fabian Hamilton MP
→Helen Hayes MP
→Drew Hendry MP
→Kelvin Hopkins MP
→Stewart Hosie MP
→Ben Lake MP
→Chris Law MP
→David Linden MP
→Caroline Lucas MP
→Rachael Maskell MP
→Stewart Mcdonald MP
→Stuart McDonald MP
→John McNally MP
→Angus Brendan MacNeil MP
→Carol Monaghan MP
→Ian Murray MPwi
→Gavin Newlands MP
→Brendan O'Hara MP
→Liz Saville Roberts MP
→Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP
→Tommy Sheppard MP
→Alex Sobel MP
→Christopher Stephens MP
→Jo Stevens MP
→Alison Thewliss MP
→Thelma Walker MP
→Catherine West MP
→Philippa Whitford MP
→Hywel Williams MP
→Peter Wishart MP
→Mohammad Yasin MP
→Jonathan Woods MP
→Daniel Zeichner MP
→Debbie Abrahams MP
→Stephen Twigg MP
→Ruth George MP
→Louise Haigh MP
→Paul Blomfield MP
→Jane Dodds MP
→Olivia Blake MP

→Tommy Sheppard MP


United Kingdom Scottish Parliament


→George Adam MSP
→Clare Adamson MSP
→Alasdair Allan MSP
→Tom Arthur MSP
→Claudia Beamish MSP
→Colin Beattie MSP
→Keith Brown MSP
→Aileen Campbell MSP
→Willie Coffey MSP
→Angela Constance MSP
→Bruce Crawford MSP
→Roseanna Cunningham MSP
→Ash Denham MSP
→Graeme Dey MSP
→Bob Doris MSP
→James Dornan MSP
→Annabelle Ewing MSP
→Fergus Ewing MSP
→Linda Fabiani MSP
→Neil Findlay MSP
→John Finnie MSP
→Joe FitzPatrick MSP
→Kate Forbes MSP
→Jeane Freeman MSP
→Kenneth Gibson MSP
→Jenny Gilruth MSP
→Mairi Gougeon MSP
→Christine Grahame MSP
→Ross Greer MSP
→Emma Harper MSP
→Patrick Harvie MSP
→Clare Haughey MSP
→Jamie Hepburn MSP
→Fiona Hyslop MSP
→Daniel Johnson MSP
→Alison Johnstone MSP
→Bill Kidd MSP
→Richard Lochhead MSP
→Richard Lyle MSP
→Joan McAlpine MSP
→Gordon MacDonald MSP
→Angus MacDonald MSP
→Fulton MacGregor MSP
→Rona Mackay MSP
→Derek Mackay MSP
→Ivan McKee MSP
→Christina McKelvie MSP
→Stuart McMillan MSP
→Ben Macpherson MSP
→Ruth Maguire MSP
→Gillian Martin MSP
→John Mason MSP
→Michael Matheson MSP
→Alex Neil MSP
→Gil Paterson MSP
→Shona Robison MSP
→Gail Ross MSP
→Mark Ruskell MSP
→Michael Russell MSP
→Elaine Smith MSP
→Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP
→Stewart Stevenson MSP
→Kevin Stewart MSP
→Nicola Sturgeon MSP
→John Swinney MSP
→Maree Todd MSP
→David Torrance MSP
→Maureen Watt MSP
→Paul Wheelhouse MSP
→Sandra White MSP
→Andy Wightman MSP
→Humza Yousaf MSP


United Kingdom Welsh Assembly


→Llyr Gruffydd AM
→Mike Hedges AM
→Dai Lloyd AM
→David Rees AM
→Bethan Sayed AM
→Simon Thomas AM
→Leanne Wood AM
→Adam Price AM
→Sian Gwenllian AM
→Delyth Jewell AM
→Helen Mary Jones AM
→Neil McEvoy AM
→Carwyn Jones AM
→Rhun ap Iorwerth AM
→Mick Antoniw AM
→Elin Jones AM

United Kingdom European Parliament


→Jill Evans MEP
→Ian Hudghton MEP
→Jean Lambert MEP
→Molly Scott Cato MEP
→Alyn Smith MEP
→Derek Vaughan MEP
→Keith Taylor MEP
→Julie Ward MEP
→Catherine Rowett MEP

United Kingdom Local Legislators


→Sharif Ali Ashraf
→Steffany McGee
→William Bishop
→Nathan Randles
→Sam Al-Hamdani
→Hfsa Fahad
→Martin Judd
→Heather Price
→Derek Heffernan
→Emilie McSwiggan
→Sue Miller
→Natalie Bennett
→Joan Walmsley
Cllr Kevin Warnes
→Jenny Jones
→Jenny Tonge 
→Joan Walmsley
→Dale Barton
→Mike Bradley
→David Noland
→Geoff Reid
→Dave Taylor
→Kevin Warnes

 

No events yet

Support for TPNW in the United Kingdom Get involved with ICAN in the United Kingdom ›

ICAN Cities Appeal:

These cities, towns and provinces support the TPNW

Brighton and Hove
East Ayrshire
Edinburgh
Fife
Hastings Borough
Hebdon Royd Town
Lancaster
Leeds
Manchester
Newham
Norwich
Oxford
Renfrewshire
Shaw and Crompton
Tower Hamlets

 

Parliamentary Pledge

These are the elected officials that have taken the ICAN Parliamentary Pledge to support and promote the TPNW:

United Kingdom Parliament

→Hannah Bardell MP
→Mhairi Black MP
→Ian Blackford MP
→Kirsty Blackman MP
→Deidre Brock MP
→Alan Brown MP
→Ruth Cadbury MP
→Lisa Cameron MP
→Douglas Chapman MP
→Joanna Cherry MP
→Ronnie Cowan MP
→Angela Crawley MP
→Janet Daby MP
→Martyn Day MP
→David Drew MP
→Martin Docherty-Hughes MP
→Jonathan Edwards MP
→Marion Fellows MP
→Paul Flynn MP
→Stephen Gethins MP
→Patricia Gibson MP
→Patrick Grady MP
→Peter Grant MP
→Neil Gray MP
→John Grogan MP
→Fabian Hamilton MP
→Helen Hayes MP
→Drew Hendry MP
→Kelvin Hopkins MP
→Stewart Hosie MP
→Ben Lake MP
→Chris Law MP
→David Linden MP
→Caroline Lucas MP
→Rachael Maskell MP
→Stewart Mcdonald MP
→Stuart McDonald MP
→John McNally MP
→Angus Brendan MacNeil MP
→Carol Monaghan MP
→Ian Murray MPwi
→Gavin Newlands MP
→Brendan O'Hara MP
→Liz Saville Roberts MP
→Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP
→Tommy Sheppard MP
→Alex Sobel MP
→Christopher Stephens MP
→Jo Stevens MP
→Alison Thewliss MP
→Thelma Walker MP
→Catherine West MP
→Philippa Whitford MP
→Hywel Williams MP
→Peter Wishart MP
→Mohammad Yasin MP
→Jonathan Woods MP
→Daniel Zeichner MP
→Debbie Abrahams MP
→Stephen Twigg MP
→Ruth George MP
→Louise Haigh MP
→Paul Blomfield MP
→Jane Dodds MP
→Olivia Blake MP

→Tommy Sheppard MP


United Kingdom Scottish Parliament


→George Adam MSP
→Clare Adamson MSP
→Alasdair Allan MSP
→Tom Arthur MSP
→Claudia Beamish MSP
→Colin Beattie MSP
→Keith Brown MSP
→Aileen Campbell MSP
→Willie Coffey MSP
→Angela Constance MSP
→Bruce Crawford MSP
→Roseanna Cunningham MSP
→Ash Denham MSP
→Graeme Dey MSP
→Bob Doris MSP
→James Dornan MSP
→Annabelle Ewing MSP
→Fergus Ewing MSP
→Linda Fabiani MSP
→Neil Findlay MSP
→John Finnie MSP
→Joe FitzPatrick MSP
→Kate Forbes MSP
→Jeane Freeman MSP
→Kenneth Gibson MSP
→Jenny Gilruth MSP
→Mairi Gougeon MSP
→Christine Grahame MSP
→Ross Greer MSP
→Emma Harper MSP
→Patrick Harvie MSP
→Clare Haughey MSP
→Jamie Hepburn MSP
→Fiona Hyslop MSP
→Daniel Johnson MSP
→Alison Johnstone MSP
→Bill Kidd MSP
→Richard Lochhead MSP
→Richard Lyle MSP
→Joan McAlpine MSP
→Gordon MacDonald MSP
→Angus MacDonald MSP
→Fulton MacGregor MSP
→Rona Mackay MSP
→Derek Mackay MSP
→Ivan McKee MSP
→Christina McKelvie MSP
→Stuart McMillan MSP
→Ben Macpherson MSP
→Ruth Maguire MSP
→Gillian Martin MSP
→John Mason MSP
→Michael Matheson MSP
→Alex Neil MSP
→Gil Paterson MSP
→Shona Robison MSP
→Gail Ross MSP
→Mark Ruskell MSP
→Michael Russell MSP
→Elaine Smith MSP
→Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP
→Stewart Stevenson MSP
→Kevin Stewart MSP
→Nicola Sturgeon MSP
→John Swinney MSP
→Maree Todd MSP
→David Torrance MSP
→Maureen Watt MSP
→Paul Wheelhouse MSP
→Sandra White MSP
→Andy Wightman MSP
→Humza Yousaf MSP


United Kingdom Welsh Assembly


→Llyr Gruffydd AM
→Mike Hedges AM
→Dai Lloyd AM
→David Rees AM
→Bethan Sayed AM
→Simon Thomas AM
→Leanne Wood AM
→Adam Price AM
→Sian Gwenllian AM
→Delyth Jewell AM
→Helen Mary Jones AM
→Neil McEvoy AM
→Carwyn Jones AM
→Rhun ap Iorwerth AM
→Mick Antoniw AM
→Elin Jones AM

United Kingdom European Parliament


→Jill Evans MEP
→Ian Hudghton MEP
→Jean Lambert MEP
→Molly Scott Cato MEP
→Alyn Smith MEP
→Derek Vaughan MEP
→Keith Taylor MEP
→Julie Ward MEP
→Catherine Rowett MEP

United Kingdom Local Legislators


→Sharif Ali Ashraf
→Steffany McGee
→William Bishop
→Nathan Randles
→Sam Al-Hamdani
→Hfsa Fahad
→Martin Judd
→Heather Price
→Derek Heffernan
→Emilie McSwiggan
→Sue Miller
→Natalie Bennett
→Joan Walmsley
Cllr Kevin Warnes
→Jenny Jones
→Jenny Tonge 
→Joan Walmsley
→Dale Barton
→Mike Bradley
→David Noland
→Geoff Reid
→Dave Taylor
→Kevin Warnes

 

Find a local ICAN partner to get active Become an ICAN Partner Organization ›

  • 80000 voices

    website

  • Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy 

    website

  • Article 36 

    website

  • British Pugwash 

    website

  • Campaign Against Arms Trade 

    website

  • Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament UK (CND)

    website

  • Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Cymru

    website

  • Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament 

    website

  • Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre

    website

  • Fellowship of Reconciliation

    website

  • Greenpeace UK 

    website

  • ICAN UK

    website

  • Hastings Against War

    website

  • Medact

    website

  • Movement for the Abolition of War 

    website

  • No Waste Alliance 
  • Nuclear Free Local Authorities

    website

  • Nuclear Information Service 

    website

  • Pax Christi British Section 

    website

  • Quaker Peace & Social Witness 

    website

  • Scientists for Global Responsibility (UK)

    website

  • Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

    website

  • Trident Ploughshares 
  • United Nations House of Scotland

    website

  • Women's International League for Peace and Freedom 

    website

  • World Court Project UK
  • Legacy of the Atomic Bomb. Recognition for Atomic Test Survivors (LABRATS)

    website

  • Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

    website

  • Pax Christi Scotland

    website

  • Anglican Pacifist Fellowship

    website

  • Hereford Peace Council
  • Pindex

    website