Britain’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly to renew the country’s submarine-based nuclear weapons program for three more decades on Monday, a move the defense secretary said would help remind the world that the country still matters even after choosing to leave the European Union.
After a day of passionate debate, 472 lawmakers opted to support the government’s call to build replacements for Britain’s aging nuclear-missile-toting submarine fleet.
Nearly all members of the governing Conservative Party backed the $42 million replacement submarines, as did a majority of the opposition Labour Party. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, however, was among 117 lawmakers who opposed the measure, with the left-wing politician saying he refused to go along with a policy premised on “the threat of mass murder.”
Monday’s vote was scheduled before last month’s stunning choice by the British public to endorse an E.U. exit. But Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Monday that he hoped the nuclear decision and other British military moves in recent weeks would “demonstrate that we are stepping up, not stepping back” from world affairs.
“We are still around,” Fallon said. “We have to demonstrate that leadership all over again.”
In an interview with journalists from U.S.-based news organizations at his office overlooking the Thames, Fallon acknowledged that Britain would need to go out of its way to emphasize its continued relevance.
That, he said, has already begun — not just with Monday’s vote, but also with troop deployments to Poland and Estonia to deter Russian aggression and to Iraq and Afghanistan to train local security forces.
“Leaving the union means we will have to do more to strengthen our other alliances and key bilateral partnerships,” he said.
The comments came on the eve of a visit by Fallon to Washington, where he is expected to meet with other defense chiefs in the U.S.-led bombing campaign against the Islamic State militant group.
Fallon noted progress in that effort, citing a 40 percent reduction in territory under the group’s control in Iraq and a cut in the flow of foreign fighters to Islamic State ranks from Britain and other Western nations.
“They’re on the back foot,” Fallon said.
Nonetheless, he described the continuing existence of extremist groups such as the Islamic State as one reason for renewing Britain’s nuclear program, known as Trident.
SOURCE: Griff Witte
The Washington Post