UK Nuclear Deterrence Policy

March 17, 2021 – For over 60 years, the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent has existed to deter the most extreme threats to our national security and way of life.

Since 1969, the deterrent has been delivered by the Royal Navy, with at least one nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine patrolling the seas undetected at all times. Their purpose is to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression.

Whilst the UK has taken a consistent and leading approach to nuclear disarmament, not all states have followed. Some are significantly increasing and diversifying their nuclear capabilities, and the threats facing the UK and its Allies are increasing in scale, complexity and diversity. The government must ensure potential adversaries cannot use their nuclear capabilities to threaten us, constrain our decision-making in a crisis, or sponsor nuclear terrorism.

A minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent, declared to the defense of NATO, remains essential in order to guarantee our security, and that of our Allies. The UK’s nuclear deterrent works every hour of every day to keep us safe, with our adversaries knowing we have the ability to impose costs on them that would far outweigh any benefit they could hope to achieve by attacking us.

Many people hold understandably strong views about nuclear weapons and the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent. However, abandoning our deterrent would not lead others to give up their nuclear weapons. Instead, it would undermine our security and that of our NATO Allies. A world where the UK’s potential adversaries have nuclear weapons but the UK (and NATO) does not, is not a world in which you and your family are safer.

The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy 2021: nuclear deterrent recognizes the worsening global security situation, and reaffirms the government’s commitment to the continuous at sea nuclear deterrent as the most effective means of deterring the most extreme threats we face.

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