UK statement to the NPT RevCon, April 27 2015

April 29, 2015

By Rebecca Sharkey, ICAN UK Co-ordinator

Baroness Anelay laid out the UK’s position in her statement to the NPT Review Conference yesterday, announcing that the UK will “retain a credible and effective minimum nuclear deterrent for as long as the global security situation makes that necessary”. This position is not only incompatible with the UK’s disarmament obligations under the NPT, it could encourage other countries to adopt a “deterrence doctrine”, inciting proliferation.

The UK’s statement accuses those who “would like to force the speed of the disarmament process” of “jeopardising the achievements of the NPT and undermining its future”. But it is the continued reliance on nuclear weapons in security doctrines and the on-going plans to renew, modernise and upgrade arsenals by countries like ours which undermine the NPT in letter and spirit.

The UK boasts that it will reduce overall nuclear warhead stockpile to 180 by the mid 2020s. However, this is still more than enough firepower to kill tens of millions of civilians and trigger catastrophic climate change.

The day after the UK statement was delivered, Austria’s foreign minister Sebastian Kurz read out the Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons on behalf of 159 States, which emphasised that “the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used again is through their total elimination”. The stark contrast with the UK’s statement shows how out of touch our country is with the prevailing and progressive attitudes held by the majority of countries on this issue.

It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances. The catastrophic effects of a nuclear weapon detonation, whether by accident, miscalculation or design, cannot be adequately addressed. All efforts must be exerted to eliminate the threat of these weapons of mass destruction.  — Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons

Taking matters to the logical next step, 78 States have already endorsed the Austrian Pledge ”to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons”. Pressure is growing. If the UK is serious about multilateral disarmament it must add its support to this Pledge.

The UK has failed to meet nearly all of its disarmament obligations made under the 2010 Action Plan. It is time for the UK to start working towards genuinely ‘effective measures’ for nuclear disarmament. A new legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons would constitute a long-overdue implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and enable the UK to fulfil its disarmament commitments under Article VI.

Importantly though, the process to achieve a treaty banning nuclear weapons will go ahead with or without the support of nuclear-armed states such as the UK, which will increasingly find that the perceived status and security of nuclear weapons is changing.

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