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SDLP's Colum Eastwood accuses UK Government of 'breaking international obligations' over nuclear weapon reversal


SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has slammed the UK Government over a decision to increase the cap on its stockpile of nuclear weapons.

The UK is set to reverse plans to reduce its stockpile of nuclear weapons by the middle of the decade, as part of a foreign policy overhaul.

The overall cap on the number of warheads will now increase to 260, having been due to drop to 180 under previous plans from 2010.

It comes as part of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy undertaken by the government.

Mr Eastwood criticised the decision on Tuesday and said the weapons should be "a relic of a bygone age".

"Again the British government seems intent on breaking its international obligations," added the MP for Foyle.

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“The fact that the British government wants to possess excessive numbers of weapons of mass destruction is morally repugnant.

"How can they justify the cost of this, given that they continuously refuse to support nurses, public sector workers and effectively address inequality?

"Ministers cannot talk about a nuclear-free world while increasing their stockpile of devastating weapons. I am calling on the British government to commit to reducing their nuclear arsenal as a matter of priority.”

Outlining the strategy to MPs, Boris Johnson said the UK would have to "relearn the art" of competing against countries with "opposing values".

But he added the UK would remain "unswervingly committed" to the Nato defence alliance and preserving peace and security in Europe.

The Army is expected to be the biggest loser within the review, with troop numbers expected to be slashed by more than 10,000, while its fleet of Challenger 2 main battle tanks is expected to be reduced by a third and the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle retired altogether.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Conservatives of overseeing an "era of retreat," with armed forces cuts "every year for the last decade".

The UK nuclear stockpile is estimated to comprise 195 warheads, and had been due to fall to 180 by the mid-2020s under a 2010 defence review.

But the latest assessment says this ambition is "no longer possible" given the "evolving security environment" over the last decade.

It adds that the UK will no longer publish figures on the size of its operational stockpile, to maintain "deliberate ambiguity" for adversaries.

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