The Nuclear Ban Treaty opened for signatures yesterday, and already 50 countries have signed up including Ireland and Austria and at least two states that formerly had nuclear weapons programmes, Libya and South Africa. The UK government has lobbied against this groundbreaking initiative that is based on international law.
A meeting with Sir Michael Fallon?
On occasions I have discussions with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Ministry of Defence on nuclear non-proliferation issues. I would love to have a discussion with the Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, about the Nuclear Ban Treaty. Not only is he opposed to the treaty at this point in time, he has been so bold as to say that the UK will ‘never sign, ratify or become party to the treaty’. His crystal ball must be working very well indeed.
We can work out from Sir Michael Fallon’s statements and from those of his department how a discussion with him might proceed. It might go something like this: –
JPIT – Why do you say that the UK will never sign the Nuclear Ban Treaty?
Sir Michael Fallon – It is just a bad idea because it cannot address the key issues that are necessary to achieve lasting global nuclear disarmament.
JPIT – What are the key issues?
Sir Michael Fallon – First, everyone must start being nice to each other
JPIT – Isn’t that a bit idealistic?Serious proposals have been advanced for General and Complete Disarmament but our churches believe that there are strong grounds in customary international law (for example around discrimination in … Continue reading
Sir Michael Fallon – Maybe, but multilateral nuclear disarmament must be a part of general and complete disarmament. That is our policy.
[The reference here is to the UK Government’s misquoting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and so we deduce that this misquote represents a policy choice of the then Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition. See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-nuclear-disarmament/2010-to-2015-government-policy-nuclear-disarmament]
JPIT – I thought that you were in favour of multilateral disarmament
Sir Michael Fallon – We are, just not for a very very long time, if ever
JPIT – Ah, I think I begin to understand why you say that the UK will never sign the Nuclear Ban Treaty. But we have to start somewhere. What are the key steps necessary to achieve the conditions that would enable multilateral disarmament to take place?
Sir Michael Fallon – Funny you should ask. We were asked the same question by the United Nations Secretary General in 2010. He wanted to call a Conference to discuss a five-point plan on multilateral disarmament.
JPIT – What did you say?
Sir Michael Fallon – Our government got together with colleagues in the US, Russia, China and France and we all agreed. Together, at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, we told the Secretary General that we were not interested in discussing his five-point plan.
JPIT – Why did the UK Government do that?
Sir Michael Fallon – You have to understand that, in addition to the 5-year NPT Review Conference, the only place such questions should be explored, even informally, is in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. It meets for 24 weeks every year.
JPIT – Great. Can I see the agenda?
Sir Michael Fallon – Ah, small problem. They couldn’t agree the agenda. I hear that they are having good meetings though – it just means that they are not able to decide on anything.
JPIT – Don’t you agree the agenda before you start the meeting?
Sir Michael Fallon – Don’t be so naive. Why do you think it takes 24 weeks?
JPIT – When was the last time that the Conference on Disarmament succeeded in getting agreement on the agenda for its meeting and agreeing a programme of work?
Sir Michael Fallon – 1996
JPIT – And it is because of the NPT Review Conference and the dysfunctional Conference on Disarmament that you don’t want to discuss possible paths to zero nuclear weapons?
Sir Michael Fallon – Precisely. For all the frustrations of the Conference on Disarmament, it is difficult to envisage an alternative that would be better fitted for the purpose of negotiating global disarmament.
JPIT – Hmmmm. I think we can fix this. We now have a Nuclear Ban Treaty that will get the support of the majority of the world’s states and that clarifies the illegality of nuclear weapons under international law. But the nuclear weapons states and a few allies seem to be intransigent. What is the UK going to do to ensure that the 120+ states supporting the Nuclear Ban Treaty and their publics don’t lose faith in the vital NPT Review process that has been so important in limiting nuclear proliferation for several decades?
Sir Michael Fallon – Maybe I could get back to you on that one – I’ll get my secretary to give you a call.
|Serious proposals have been advanced for General and Complete Disarmament but our churches believe that there are strong grounds in customary international law (for example around discrimination in conflict) that require nuclear weapons to be treated differently and separately. The moral taboo around nuclear weapons should enable effective disarmament and verification regimes to be established.