Labour's front bench call for Britain to scrap its nuclear deterrent

More than a dozen members of Labour’s front bench call for Britain to scrap its nuclear deterrent despite the threat of Putin unleashing his own arsenal

  • Sir Keir has tried to rebrand party’s attitude to defence following Jeremy Corbyn

More than a dozen members of Sir Keir Starmer’s top team have called for Britain to scrap its nuclear deterrent – as the threat of Vladimir Putin unleashing his own arsenal remains.

The Labour frontbenchers, including the shadow defence minister, have backed unilateral disarmament through the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

Sir Keir has sought to rebrand his party’s attitude to defence following the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong and vocal campaigner for banning arms.

But he was last night facing calls to sack the TPNW supporters amid concerns a Labour government would leave the UK vulnerable to threats from the Kremlin.

Putin issued a warning to the West by suspending a nuclear arms control treaty earlier this year. Nato allies such as the Netherlands have said the TPNW is incompatible with the alliance’s commitments.

Shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray (pictured) pledged to ‘work for the ratification of the TPNW’

It came into force in January 2021 and commits its signatories, who do not include Britain, ‘not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons’.

Signing it would make the Trident nuclear missile deterrent programme and the UK’s possession of nuclear weapons immediately illegal. It would also prevent Britain from hosting nuclear weapons for Nato members such as the US.

Nato has repeatedly condemned the treaty, which none of its members has supported or signed.

Craig Tracey, vice chairman of the Conservatives, said: ‘Keir Starmer needs to kick all these people out of his top team and his party if he wants anyone to believe what he says about his commitment to Nato and our Armed Forces. These are not obscure backbench MPs, these are people he appointed because he wants them to be in charge of large areas of government policy including defence and foreign affairs.’

Shadow defence minister Rachel Hopkins and shadow levelling up minister Paula Barker signed an Early Day Motion in 2021 calling on the UK to support the TPNW and ‘bring forward a credible and timetabled plan for the disarmament of the UK’s nuclear weapons’. One of the main backers was Mr Corbyn.

Frontbenchers including transport spokesman Louise Haigh, shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray, and shadow Foreign Office ministers Catherine West and Fabian Hamilton pledged to ‘work for the ratification of the TPNW’.

They vowed to ‘eliminate these inhumane and abhorrent weapons’ because their abolition is ‘an essential step to promote the security and well-being of all peoples’.

Sir Keir has sought to hammer home his dedication to UK defence and called on the Government to increase spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Labour said its support for nuclear deterrence was ‘total’, adding: ‘It provides protection to our Nato allies, as well as the UK. Under Keir Starmer, Labour’s support for Nato, our nuclear deterrent, the UN and our Armed Forces is unshakeable.’

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