Prime Minister Theresa May would be prepared to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against any enemies, even if Britain was not under attack, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has claimed.
“In the most extreme circumstances we have made it very clear that you can’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike,” Fallon told the BBC’s Today program.
When asked in what circumstances, he replied: “They are better not specified or described, which would only give comfort to our enemies and make the deterrent less credible.
“The whole point about the deterrent is that you have got to leave uncertainty in the mind of anyone who might be thinking of using weapons against this country.”
The prime minister’s official spokesperson later added there was “no reason to disagree with what the defense secretary said.”
Trident’s four submarines operate a continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent. Last year, a vote in the House of Commons saw MPs vote for Trident’s renewal, which is expected to cost up to £225 billion (about US$285 billion) over its service lifetime.
Fallon’s comments come as the Tories continued to exploit Labour divisions on the retention of the Trident deterrent, to warn of the “very dangerous chaos” if Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister.
On Sunday, the Labour leader said he would never authorize the use of nuclear weapons and suggested Trident renewal might not be in Labour’s election manifesto – only to be corrected within hours by party colleagues.
Speaking to the BBC, Fallon said voters tempted by Labour had been left “completely unsure as to what would actually happen to our nuclear deterrent.”
“I think you saw Jeremy Corbyn yesterday questioning strikes against terrorists, refusing to back the nuclear deterrent, he’s been querying our NATO deployment and he seems to have fallen out with his own party over nuclear deterrent.
“That’s chaos, but it’s very dangerous chaos that would put the security of our country at risk.”
Corbyn, a long-standing proponent of total nuclear disarmament, believes a Trident renewal is expensive, unsafe, ill-suited for contemporary warfare and in violation of international commitments.
Fallon also insisted that critics of Trident, including senior military figures who have ridiculed the idea that it is an effective deterrent, were “absolutely wrong.”
“It deters day and night every single day of every single year,” he said.