Ministers want to settle the question replacing Trident within weeks to stop the SNP turning next year’s Holyrood elections into a referendum on the nuclear deterrent
The future of Britain’s nuclear weapons is set to be decided within weeks as ministers plan to call an early Commons vote on Trident.
The government wants the question to be settled “by Christmas” to stop Nicola Sturgeon and Jeremy Corbyn turning next year’s Scottish parliament elections into a referendum on Britain’s nuclear deterrent, senior sources said.
Senior figures fear that a divisive debate over national defence would weaken Britain’s image abroad at a time of increased threat to national security.
Image:A decision on whether to renew Britain’s nuclear deterrent is expected next year
A vote in the Commons in December would also expose the deep split on the issue within Labour. The party’s new leader, Mr Corbyn, is certain to oppose replacing the nuclear-armed submarines but many of his shadow Cabinet members and MPs want to maintain the missile system.
The vote had been expected by the end of 2016, which would allow enough time for the first of the new submarines to be built before the existing fleet is taken out of service in the late 2020s.
However, the critical decision on whether to proceed with replacing Trident now looks likely to be brought forward.
The UK’s deterrent consists of four Vanguard-class submarines, each capable of carrying up to 16 Trident II D-5 ballistic nuclear missiles.
At least one submarine is constantly on patrol, while one undergoes maintenance and the other two carry out manoeuvers. The missiles are capable of hitting a target up to 7,500 miles away.
However, the Trident missile system, which was launched in the 1990s as a replacement for the predecessor, Polaris, is due to end its service from 2028. It takes about a decade to build and prepare a new submarine for service.
The full, like-for-like replacement of Britain’s nuclear deterrent would cost more than £25 billion and by some estimates up to £100 billion.
The parliamentary vote on whether to approve the replacement of all four submarines had been expected to take place in June 2016.
But ministers fear that this will make the future of Trident a defining issue at the Edinburgh parliament elections in May. The Scottish National Party leader, Ms Sturgeon, would be likely to campaign against replacing the submarines.
Read more here: The Telegraph