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Britain and France may share nuclear deterrent


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UK Independent/John Lichfield in Paris and Kim Sengupta:

The possibility of a "shared" UK-French nuclear deterrent is set to be on the agenda of a summit between David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy in London this autumn.

A politically explosive proposal for joint Franco-British nuclear-submarine patrols – an idea sunk without trace in the recent past – has been brought back to the surface by the draconian defence cuts in both countries.

Although talks are still at a preliminary stage, officials in Paris say that the idea is one possibility for cost-saving military co-operation which is likely to be discussed by the Prime Minister and the President at the annual Franco-British summit in London in early November
A senior British defence official acknowledged last night that the possibility of sharing nuclear deterrence capability with the French remains on the table, adding that a "number of options are being studied".

The official, who has advised the Government on nuclear policy, pointed out that although the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, has vowed the UK will keep its independent nuclear deterrent, the £20bn cost of replacing Trident meant that "one had to adjust one's sights".

The insistence of Chancellor George Osborne that the money would have to come from the defence budget rather than the Treasury has made looking at cheaper options even more imperative.

The idea of joint submarine patrols has been discussed before – most recently in March – when it was floated by President Sarkozy but rejected by Gordon Brown. The change of government in the UK, and the sheer scale of the threatened defence cuts, have revived the discussions but French and British officials warn that technical and political obstacles have not yet been overcome.
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