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UK misses talks on banning nuclear weapons

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UNA-UK, EDM, Patricia Gibson, nuclear weapon ban, UN negotiations,Negotiations are currently underway at the UN to create a legally-binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.

Over 130 countries are participating.

The UK is not.

And this non-participation raises serious doubts about the UK’s compliance with its international obligations, including its commitment to pursue negotiations on multilateral nuclear disarmament under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Before the negotiations started, the chair of the United Nations Association UK (UNA-UK), Stewart Wood, Lord Wood of Ansfield, in a letter sent to the UK’s Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, in March, did urge the UK to reconsider its decision to stay away, saying that the decision of nuclear-weapon states not to participate in the UN negotiations was regrettable and could contribute to a deterioration of relations between those with nuclear weapons and those without. […]

The UK, Lord Wood pointed out, had an important role to play on this front.

Firstly, the UK should work energetically to improve relations with non-nuclear-weapon states. This includes reversing its decision not to participate in the 2017 UN nuclear disarmament negotiations and by taking other unmistakable steps to demonstrate Britain’s commitment on this issue.

Secondly, the UK should take action to help restore the health of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons regime, including by initiating an inclusive process to work on the 64-point Action Plan outlined in 2016 and by publishing an annual report on the UK’s contribution towards its implementation.

Lastly, the UK should acknowledge the negative effect that any perceived failure to honour its international obligations could have on the standing of the wider system of international laws and norms, a system upon which – according to the UK’s own analysis – Britain’s security and prosperity depend.

The government, in its response, said that the UK remained “committed to continue to work with partners across the international community to prevent proliferation and to make progress on multilateral nuclear disarmament” – before reiterating its decision not to attend the negotiations.

The UNA-UK sees this as a missed opportunity to listen to the concerns of non-nuclear-weapon states and demonstrate its commitment to its obligation to work for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Negotiations began on 15 June and will end on 7 July 2017.

Given the dangers arising from a lack of international cooperation on nuclear security issues and the potential emergence of a new arms race between nuclear powers, principled and engaged leadership from nuclear-weapon states is something that is sorely needed.

It is regrettable, Lord Wood said, that the UK was not using the negotiations as an opportunity to build bridges with a significant proportion of the international community and makes it even more important that the UK pursue other routes to reassure its partners and to co-operate internationally.

UNA-UK, working with the British American Security Information Council, BASIC, has outlined 30 opportunities for UK actions which could carry cross-party support and would help the UK signal its commitment to multilateral disarmament.

You can review the full list of recommendations and contributors in their report here.

By taking such actions, the UK would be contributing much-needed leadership to what is an increasingly divisive and dangerous international issue.

An Early Day Motion was lodged at Westminster by Patricia Gibson, Scottish National Party MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, on 27 June, about the UN’s nuclear weapons ban treaty talks.

It expresses concern that the UK is not taking part in the Global Ban Treaty discussions; dismay that the mainstream media are not covering the discussions; alarm at the imminent danger of nuclear war and its likely catastrophic impact; and the importance of Scotland’s role as unwilling host of the Trident system.

It was sponsored by Alison Thewliss, Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow Central, and Christopher Stephens, Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow South West.

An Early Day Motion (EDM) is a formal proposal submitted by a Member of Parliament for debate in the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity but at no fixed time.

Early day motions are rarely actually debated. Their main purpose is to draw attention to a particular subject or area of interest.

The full wording of the motion is:

That this House is very concerned that no state which currently possesses nuclear weapons participated in the renewed UN discussions on a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, which will conclude in July 2017;

believes that this is the most significant legislative move for nuclear disarmament for some time;

understands that the Treaty will constitute an unambiguous political commitment to achieve and maintain a nuclear weapon-free world;

is dismayed that these UN talks have not attracted more coverage from the mainstream media;

is encouraged by the fact that more than 100 countries attended these talks despite the fact that Britain, France, Israel, Russia the US voted against the UN’s proposal to create a legally-binding treaty banning nuclear weapons;

is aware that there is an ever-growing threat of nuclear disaster with international concerns over North Korea’s nuclear programme and a recent White House aide indicating that the US pledge towards a world without nuclear weapons was being reviewed;

is further aware that expert analysis and evidence considered by the Vienna Conference in December 2014 showed with stunning clarity that the risks, accidents, mistake, radiation and climate impacts and the local, regional and global humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, have been hugely underestimated;

and is mindful of the Scottish Parliament’s consistent opposition to nuclear weapons and their deployment in Scotland by the government.

To support this Early Day Motion, please contact your MP, whether you are in Scotland, or elsewhere in Britain, to ask him or her to sign the EDM to show their support.

You can see who has already signed by clicking here.

To follow the UN’s discussions on banning nuclear weapons, click here.

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