LONDON, July 18 (UPI) — Even though the United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union, Britain is still relevant in matters of regional and global peacekeeping, the nation’s defense chief said and members of parliament echoed Monday — with a majority vote on the future of London’s nuclear forces.
Members of British Parliament voted 472-117 on Monday to renew the nation’s submarine-based nuclear missile fleet — a prospect that’s expected to cost the government north of $200 billion over the next four decades.
Nearly 500 lawmakers approved the government’s call to replace and maintain Britain’s aging Trident sea-based nuclear missile program for the foreseeable future.
While the vote isn’t legally binding, it signals lawmakers’ willingness to invest large amounts of money in the United Kingdom’s defenses. It does approve the manufacture of four replacement submarines at a cost of about $42 billion, BBC News reported Monday.
In opening debate Monday, new British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would not hesitate to launch a nuclear attack, if warranted, and that such a scenario would depend heavily on the nation’s nuclear capability at sea.
Discussion on the matter lasted for five hours. In the end, almost the entire Conservative Party and more than half of Labour Party members supported the government’s proposed fleet maintenance plan.
Defence Minister Michael Fallon said renewing the nuclear fleet will remind the world that, despite leaving the EU, Britain still matters to the rest of the world.
“We are still around,” he said. “We have to demonstrate that leadership all over again.”
May surprised some in parliament Monday when asked if she would be capable and prepared to order a nuclear strike that would result in an immense loss of life.
“Is she personally prepared to authorize a nuclear strike that can kill a hundred thousand innocent men, women and children?” MP George Kerevan queried.
“Yes,” May replied flatly. “The whole point of a deterrent is that our enemies need to know that we would be prepared to use it, unlike some suggestions that we could have a deterrent but not actually be willing to use it.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who allowed his party’s lawmakers to vote freely on the issue, argued that the threat of a nuclear strike isn’t likely to be as effective as it may have been during the Cold War.
“What is the threat we are facing that one million people’s deaths would actually deter?” he asked.
“I make it clear today I would not take a decision that kills millions of innocent people,” Corbyn told parliament members. “I do not believe the threat of mass murder is a legitimate way to deal with international relations.”
British officials are presently considering various options for the future of the United Kingdom’s nuclear defense program — which range from total disarmament to total replacement, The Guardian reported.