Calls to scrap Trident nukes threaten party unity at Labour & Lib Dem conferences

© David Moir
Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn says Labour will support renewal of the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent and continued membership of NATO. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has also warned his party conference not to back scrapping Trident.

Benn’s comments are at odds with the views of Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has long campaigned against Trident and been a stalwart supporter of withdrawal from NATO.

My view is that we need to maintain an independent nuclear deterrent,” Benn told the BBC on Sunday.

I share with Jeremy the wish to see a world which is free of nuclear weapons, but I don’t believe for one second that if Britain were to give up its deterrent any other of the nuclear states would give theirs up.

Benn said he expected Labour to vote for Trident renewal at the party’s annual conference, which beings on September 27. He also appeared confident that Labour would vote to remain in NATO.

We’ve been members of NATO since it was created, in part with the support of the Labour government at the end of the Second World War that created the NHS and Ernie Bevin was the foreign secretary that helped make it happen, and it has been a cornerstone of our security – I simply don’t see that happening [UK pulling out of NATO],” he said.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron also faces a test of his leadership over Trident at the party’s own conference, which began on Saturday.
Former MP Julian Huppert has fielded a motion to oppose Trident renewal and scrap existing warheads as soon as possible.

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Farron has warned against the lure of such a proposal, despite saying he would back a vote on scrapping Trident.

Writing on the Lib Dem Voice website, he said he would “happily lead the charge” but that at the same time “we need to be absolutely sure that neither our security nor that of our neighbors is compromised.