Replacing Trident makes no sense, Centreforum argues

One of the UK's Vanguard submarines The renewal of Trident has major financial and political implications

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The government is being urged to cancel the "nonsensical" replacement of the Trident nuclear submarines and use the money to "revitalise" the armed forces.

Liberal policy think tank Centreforum says Britain is "sleepwalking" into replacing Trident at a cost of £25bn, while cutting the navy, Army and RAF.

It argues there is no current or medium-term threat to justify the cost.

The MoD said the government was committed to maintaining a continuous submarine-based nuclear deterrent.

In May 2011, the then Defence Secretary Liam Fox approved the £3bn first design stage for the new submarines.

However, the coalition government has delayed a final decision until after the next election amid concerns from the Liberal Democrats about the cost.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy supports the renewal of Trident, although many backbench Labour MPs are opposed to the idea.


  • 2007: MPs approve plans for renewal in Commons vote. "Concept phase" launched to assess future submarine designs and consider value for money of project
  • 2010: Defence review decides to delay final decision on renewal to 2016
  • May 2011: "Initial Gate" procurement phase begins. Some building materials and components of nuclear propulsion system to be purchased over five years
  • 2016: "Main Gate" decision due to be taken. Submarine design and missile component contracts to be finalised
  • 2028: First replacement submarine to be delivered

Centreforum proposes that Britain should retain the capability to design and build nuclear weapons in case they are needed in the future.

But, it says, the UK's ballistic missile submarines should now be converted to an attack fleet and equipped with conventionally armed cruise missiles.

It says the government should invest the billions saved by cancelling Trident in Britain's conventional forces, which would otherwise face further cuts by 2020.

Report author Toby Fenwick said: "Replacing Trident is nonsensical. There is no current or medium-term threat to the UK which justifies the huge costs involved.

"A critical assessment of the UK's strategic position and military requirements leads to a clear conclusion: Trident makes no effective contribution to our security. Cancelling it will provide a unique opportunity to rebalance and revitalise Britain's forces for the 21st century."

The issue of a like-for-like replacement of Trident is one that has divided the coalition.

The Ministry of Defence said that as part of the coalition agreement, the Liberal Democrats would continue to explore the possibility of an alternative approach to delivering a credible nuclear deterrent, with a report to the prime minister and deputy prime minister due to be published later this year.

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell, who is chairing the cross-party commission looking into the nuclear issue, said the report was ill-timed.

MPs were still considering a variety of evidence from experts and confidential sources and it seemed "premature to jump to a conclusion", he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The chief executive of Centreforum, Chris Nicholson, said: "We are pleased that the government is carrying out a study of alternatives to Trident.

"It is important that the option of removing Trident from service immediately is considered as part of this review."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Was it Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt who said "A man should talk softly and carry a big stick."

    Trident is the big stick that allows us to talk softly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Why dont we all carry knives? That would be a similar deterrant, no? If someone threatens to knife you, pull out your big knife, and then they back off, because they realise they are likely to get stabbed aswell. Same idea isn't it, have a huge weapon lying in wait, 'just in case' someone tries it on

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Why don't we scrap the High Speed train that only business people will able to afford then claim on expenses, it will destroy yet more fields, woods, animal habitats. Bees, essential to food production are already in fast decline. Also stop any expansion to airports anywhere near London, maybe one or two of the smaller airports could take a few more with local homeowners approval. Not planners

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    83. koolkarmauk

    Trident is a definition of being a superpower. No foe on earth could withstand one of its missiles. The U.K. is forever safe. It is the 1st responsibility of government. One submarine, sitting anywhere on the globe with 1 of its missile can remove Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tehran, Moscow and 5 other targets from the map in less time than you could make a cup of tea. M.A.D.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    The lead time for a new warship or submarine is measured in decades and the Royal Navy together with the other services have already been DECIMATED by successive governments. The forces are already overstreched now there is a risk they must function with outdated, second-rate equipment. If you want peace prepare for war! Didn't we learn any lessons from history?

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Britain needs to cut it's cloth according to it's means. We stopped being a global super power not long after WW II. The reason we are open to attack is because we support American foreign policy. Time for us to have a long hard look are where we are in the pecking order of the world and size our Military forces accordingly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    This storey sites us as the 3rd highest spender on military but look at the assets it has given us, nothing close to the other 4 in the top 5. Can all this difference be in efficiency? Why the great difference?

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    No British politician that's electable would ever push the button. Therefore, it's a pointless waste of money. Designed for a MAD world during the Cold War that no longer exists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Trident... the ultimate deterrent.

    Replace it with what? Suitcase bombs? To puny.
    Ones dropped from a plane or land based missile? To vulnerable.

    Just say we get rid of Trident... some aggressive foreign power tells us they have a sub with nuke missiles sitting off our coast. You have no deterrent...they got you by the throat. They could get you before your cheaper systems launched.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Multi-megaton ICBM's are the bluntest of blunt instruments, only useful against large countries such as Russia, Canada, the US, Australia, China and Brazil. Axis of evil? Nuke N. Korea with Trident and you do S. Korea, Russia, and China as well. Nuke Iran and you irradiate a big chunk of the world's oil supply. Not a happy scenario either way...

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Webbos1990 - 'Surely this money would be better spent allowing thousands basic human rights. Another example of the government's WRONG priorities, overlooking what is really important.'

    If you feel that way how about you donate all your cash then to the starving, instead of sitting on your PC in your well fed and clothed and watered ivory tower lecturing everyone else?

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    "Surely this money would be better spent allowing thousands basic human rights"

    Human rights are a myth. If you want people not to starve, you need to instruct them to stop breeding at an exponential rate. We need to be teaching them, not feeding them. Also this involves controlling our own population - this can be kicked off by the removal of breeding incentives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Lets get this straight, not renewing Trident doesn't mean we'd suddenly lack a nuclear deterrent. We'd still have plenty of land based nuclear missiles to provide that.

    £25bn is a calamitous waste of money, money that not only could go to other areas of defence, but services such as the NHS and public schools which are getting ripped apart by funding cuts.

    Our priorities are all wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    It is the over-weight of military expenditure that time and again destroys nations & empires by turning them into hollowed out shells. Why copy the recent examples of the Soviet Union and the US on this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    87.Ruud Huygens

    i'm guessing you misread the article, and that while the UK would have a much tougher time retaking the islands, the 1200-strong garrison, the presence of Eurofighter Typhoons and a Type 45 destroyer would make invasion all but impossible for an Argentine military which has seen little modernisation since 1982

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    47. TheWalrus999
    "Unfortunately, the world is not perfect; large parts are unstable with corrupt governments". Yes, I too have thought about leaving the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Even Iran wants us and everybody else to disarm their nukes and why not? So put all your nuclear weapons down and come out with your hands up and that's an order!

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    2028 first replacement to be delivered, in theory. So that will be 2050 and the price tag will be 250bn.

    Even in 2028, do you think the biggest threat will be nuclear? By then the Russians, Chinese, Indians, Israelis and Americans will have something significantly more scary that will shut down everything we rely on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    83.koolkarmauk "This is just Britain flexing its miniscule little muscles...Any super power would crush Britain within days."

    True, but that is where Trident comes in. No matter how superior a country's forces are, no country would attack us whilst there is a threat of nuclear retaliation. They would end up with a pyrrhic victory as their own country is destroyed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    LeftieAgitator:As the US own the warheads and provide the guidance data how 'independent' is it.

    Excellent point. We've got Winston Churchill and the still supersecret and undisclosed UK/USA agreement made in the early1950s to thank for that. Churchill & co effectively made the UK the 51st state.


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