Osborne crushes MoD’s Trident hopes

By politics.co.uk staff

Defence secretary Liam Fox faces being forced to make sweeping cuts to conventional forces after the Treasury repeated its refusal to pay for Britain’s nuclear deterrent from its own coffers.

Chancellor George Osborne stood firm in the face of public pressure from Dr Fox, who had hoped to persuade No 11 to finance Trident separately from the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) overall budget.

“All budgets have pressure,” Mr Osborne told the Bloomberg news agency yesterday.

“I don’t think there’s anything particularly unique about the Ministry of Defence. I have made it very clear that Trident renewal costs must be part of the defence budget.”

Dr Fox warned in response that Britain could find itself disadvantaged in a “new nuclear arms race”.

“There are a lot of real dangers out there and I’m not sure people have really focused on them,” he told the Metro newspaper.

If Iran acquires a nuclear arsenal, which seems increasingly likely, other regional powers including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey could be forced to follow suit.

But the MoD would pay a heavy price for renewing Trident on a like-for-like basis. Cuts in Britain’s conventional forces contemplated in the ongoing strategic defence and security review would have to be extended further to pay for the nuclear capability.

Yesterday the Royal United Services Institute thinktank offered a potential way out for Dr Fox.

It published a report outlining a number of alternatives to a like-for-like replacement.

These included a ‘continuous-at-sea-deterrence-capable’ submarine force which could credibly reconstitute the nuclear deterrent if needed. Alternatively a ‘dual-capable’ submarine force could be used either for conventional or deterrent purposes.

The MoD’s strategic defence and security review is likely to complete its work after the publication of the government’s wider comprehensive spending review on October 20th.