War and Peace

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Government slammed for ‘shameful’ refusal to back UN prohibition on Nuclear Weapons treaty

The threat of nuclear war, by design or accident, is an even more urgent threat to life on earth than the climate crisis. Communists campaign against NATO’s ‘first strike’—or ‘pre-emptive use’—policy and call for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

On 22 January 2021, the UN’s “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”, or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, came into legal effect. It is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons. Its ultimate goal is their total elimination.

Below, Niall Christie, Scotland editor of the Morning star, reports on the UK’s failure to sign the treaty.

POLITICIANS and campaigners slammed the “shameful” British government today after it refused to sign up to the United Nations (UN) treaty on the prohibition on Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

The Tory government failed to back the treaty, which came into effect today, despite claiming it was “committed” to a world without nuclear weapons.

The UN treaty declares that countries signed up must “never under any circumstances develop, test, produce, manufacture or otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

None of the nuclear powers, including Britain, have so far signed the accord, which was ratified by the required 50 countries last year and passed in the UN general assembly 122 votes to one, with one abstention. Britain and other nuclear-armed states refused to take part in the vote.

Representatives from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and politicians across Britain hit out at the lack of progress from the government, warning of the weapons’ devastating threat to humanity.

Ben Donaldson of United Nations Association-UK said: “The ground is moving under the UK’s feet. This significant new UN treaty will sit alongside the other major global treaty on nuclear weapons, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and drive forward the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.

“Nuclear weapons are a global threat. Two-thirds of countries want urgent action to reduce this threat. The UK has a legal and moral responsibility to act.”

CND released results from a poll today, carried out by Survation, which showed that 77 per cent of Brits support a total ban of nuclear weapons.

A further 59 per cent want the Westminster government to sign the UN’s TPNW.

CND general secretary Kate Hudson celebrated the historic day but condemned the British government for its stance.

She said: “Shamefully, the UK government refused to even participate in the treaty talks. But that won’t stop us from celebrating this achievement.

“This treaty is a victory for all peace-loving people and the courageous states that have stood up globally to demand nuclear abolition.

“And it is a victory for grassroots campaigning and the anti-nuclear movement which has done so much to support the process.”

CND UK vice-president and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the poll, saying: “The majority of British people understand that nuclear weapons are both a threat to the future of humanity and a grotesque waste of money that could be used wisely to provide real security.”

Parliamentarians at Westminster have themselves urged the Tory government to take action, with Labour MP Zarah Sultana writing to the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab calling for ministers to scrap Trident.

She said: “Far from protecting people from the real threats we face — like pandemics, poverty, inequality and the climate emergency — nuclear weapons pose a grave danger to humanity.

“Their use would entail unthinkable mass murder, indiscriminately killing millions, while accidents are an ever-present risk.

“These weapons are an evil that must be banished to the past.”

Stop the War national organiser Mayer Wakefield said: “If the British government had even the slightest interest in peace around the world it would stand alongside the majority of nations on the planet and sign the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty immediately.

“Instead, it relies on an outdated nuclear weapons system to maintain its reputation as an imperial power intent on pursuing power through the threat of unspeakable violence.

“We face very immediate threats and nuclear weapons do nothing to tackle them.”

Many people in Scotland, where much of Britain’s nuclear weapons system is currently housed and maintained, added their outrage at the government’s lack of action.

ICAN steering group member Janet Fenton said: “Scotland can contribute to international peace rather than being a launch pad for waging nuclear war.

“The TPNW shows the will of the sane majority of the world, and will ensure our protection under international law if we can accede to the TPNW.”

MSPs from both the SNP and Scottish Greens said the government’s unwillingness to sign the treaty showed that the only way to protect Scots from nuclear weapons was through independence.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “The UK is committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons, in line with our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“We firmly believe the best way to achieve this is through gradual multilateral disarmament negotiated through the treaty.”