David Blackburn

Deferring deterrent

Deferring deterrent
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We’ve been here before: Hacker’s ‘Grand Design’, a scheme to save money by cancelling Trident. The BBC reports that the coalition plots a similar ruse – the renewal of Trident is understood to have been deferred until after the next election.

This is the best of bad a situation. Britain has an independent nuclear deterrent, albeit nearing obsolescence. Trident’s renewal Is a point of contention for the coalition – with the Tories for and the Lib Dems against. Better to delay than squabble. It makes financial and strategic sense too: the upfront renewal cost is £20bn, deferring is understood to cost somewhere in the region of £750m; the suicide bombing fraternity are deterred by well protected schools not H-bombs, the forces are already starved of resources, and the Vanguard submarines that carry Trident have years yet to serve.  

But if the BBC’s report is accurate, it follows that Britain’s independent deterrent lies outside the strategic defence review – an indication that the review is being conducted by the penny-pinching Treasury, not the service chiefs. So this is a decision deferred rather than a decision taken. Hacker’s Grand Design was thwarted by Sir Humphrey’s axiom that ‘Trident is best and Britain must have the best’. Britain may still find the best beyond its grasp in 2015.