UK Politics,  Your View

Nick Clegg drops a clanger on Trident replacement

Guest post by Graham Barral

This morning on the Andrew Marr show Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg seemed to struggle on two issues: immigration and the UK Nuclear deterrent. Of particular interest to me was his stunning display of ignorance about nuclear arms control. Clegg appears to be proposing that the US provide weapons grade plutonium to Britain in order to maintain the UK deterrent after a Liberal Democrat government has run down the UK civil nuclear power programme. The relevant segment of the interview is transcribed below (starting at 44:01):

Andrew Marr: You are against nuclear power but you are contenplating nuclear weapons. Where are you going to get the plutonium from?

Nick Clegg: Well clearly, clearly, clearly if you maintain a nuclear weapon system you can make sure in particular through our very close close cooperation with the Americans that you, you get the right materials.

The “right materials” in this case is weapons grade plutonium used in modern nuclear weapon warheads.

Clegg seems oblivious to the restrictions placed on both the US and UK as signatories to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Article 1 prohibits the transfer of nuclear weapons and explosives between states. The Polaris and Trident deals between the US and British governments were for the sale of the missiles and fire control systems only. The treaty forbade the transfer of the warheads themselves; but Clegg is quite clearly unaware of this.

This bizarre reaction to Andrew Marr’s tough question shows that Clegg has either not thought through his policies properly or he is ignorant of the arms control treaties the UK has signed– or both.

To me this is a gaffe of Reagan magnitude and probably had senior Liberal figures choking on their breakfasts.