Cameron plans Trident vote to unify Tories split over EU referendum

A nuclear submarine is seen at the Royal Navy's submarine base at Faslane, Scotland. © Russell Cheyne
Prime Minister David Cameron plans to call a House of Commons vote on the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent next month in an attempt to unify Tory MPs split over the EU referendum, it has emerged.

Such a vote would put the spotlight on internal divisions in the Labour Party over Britain’s nuclear program and away from the Tory-on-Tory infighting seen in the run-up to the referendum.

While Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry want nuclear weapons done away with, the Blairite faction within the party is determined to maintain nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, keeping Trident has wide support across the Conservative Party.

The Financial Times reports the timing of the parliamentary vote on the Trident program depends on the outcome of the referendum, and could be postponed until later in the year.

A ‘Leave’ vote would likely put back such a vote, it says.

Delays in holding the parliamentary vote have already been criticized by the chair of the Defence Select Committee, Conservative MP Julian Lewis, who says there is “growing concern” that national security is taking a back seat to political considerations.

MPs voted by a wide majority in 2007 to renew the Trident nuclear weapons system, but a decision on how many nuclear subs to order has been delayed since 2010.

Last week, a group of Labour MPs in favor of renewing Trident launched a “myth-busting” counter report to oppose a review tabled by Corbyn, in a bid to convince other Labour MPs to back the costly $100 billion-plus project.

The leading figure in the move is right-wing Labour MP John Woodcook, who wants his colleagues to be ordered to vote for renewal, a policy he argues was agreed to at the 2015 Labour Party conference.

If the vote goes Cameron’s way, the replacement submarines would come into service in the early 2030s, continuing the longstanding UK policy of a permanent at-sea nuclear deterrent.