Media Release: BASIC Trident Commission Paper on UK-France nuclear cooperation: Yes we can, but…

Deeper nuclear cooperation between the UK and France is possible but constrained by a number of factors, including the close relationship between the UK and US, and could lock the two nuclear futures together and prevent unilateral steps towards disarmament, according to a new expert report by French researcher Dr Bruno Tertrais for the BASIC Trident Commission.

The study, entitled Entente Nucléaire, was released today ahead of consultations in Washington of the five officially acknowledged nuclear powers (the P5) within the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is the third prepared for the cross-party Trident Commission. It evaluates lessons from past cooperation attempts between London and Paris and investigates the impact of present arrangements. As the two European members of NATO with nuclear weapons, both nations advocate expanding their cooperation and strengthening deterrence as a contribution to overall European security.

Tertrais, senior research fellow at the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique in Paris, said the report is timely because “during this time of global austerity, both the United Kingdom and France will be making major decisions in the near future on their nuclear forces.” He noted that France will make a decision on the conception of a replacement nuclear-armed submarine around 2014, similar to the UK’s 2011 ‘Initial Gate’; in 2016, the UK will make a final decision on whether or not to go ahead with the construction of new boats.

Tertrais concludes that the deepening of cooperation between the UK and France is limited, but possible. He suggests that it will require:

  • Strong and continued political will on both sides;
  • a common interest in cooperating; and
  • the absence of US opposition.

Tertrais argues that the more the two countries cooperate, the more flexibility they will have in reducing nuclear expenses and their respective nuclear forces. However, such moves would increase the difficulty of taking unilateral steps towards disarmament.

The independent, cross-party BASIC Trident commission is examining the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons policy and the issue of Trident renewal. The Commission is due to publish its final report in early 2013.

Read the full report by Tertrais here.

For media queries, contact:

Paul Ingram, Executive Director of BASIC: +44 7908708175 or [email protected]

Bruno Tertrais: +33672917166 or [email protected]

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