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UK parliament votes to renew Trident nuclear weapons system

British MPs have voted overwhelmingly in favor of renewing their ageing nuclear weapons system, Trident. Some observers say new PM Theresa May is using the vote to unify her party after a bruising Brexit campaign.

Despite opposition from the Scottish National Party (SNP) and some members of the opposition Labour Party, UK lawmakers approved the renewal of Trident by 472 votes to 117 on Monday.

The Conservative Party made the replacement of the four submarines – Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant and Vengeance – a promise in the 2015 General Election.

The fleet will be replaced over the next 35 years at an estimated initial cost of £35 billion (41 billion euros, $46 billion).

May warns of ‘reckless gamble’

In her first statement in parliament as prime minister, Theresa May urged lawmakers on Monday to back Trident, not only to protect the UK from growing threats from Russia and North Korea, but to also protect thousands of jobs in Scotland and elsewhere.

“What this country needs to do is to recognize that it faces a variety of threats and to ensure we have the capabilities that are necessary and appropriate to deal with each of those threats,” she said ahead of the vote.

The UK parliament voted 472 votes to 117 to renew Trident

Britain needed to retain a nuclear deterrent which had been an insurance policy for nearly 50 years, May said.

“We cannot outsource the grave responsibility we shoulder for keeping our people safe … That would be a reckless gamble: a gamble that would enfeeble our allies and embolden our enemies; a gamble with the safety and security of families in Britain that we must never be prepared to take.”

Divided parties

The vote, which was originally scheduled to take place in March, was delayed by former Prime Minister David Cameron until after the EU referendum.

In light of the hugely dividing Brexit campaign, the vote on Trident was widely seen as May’s attempt to unify the Conservatives and highlight rifts in within Labour.

Although Labour’s official policy is to maintain Trident, a large number of anti-nuclear activists have voiced their opinion in the party’s ranks. For beleagured Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, nuclear disarmament has been a life-long cause.

“If we want a nuclear weapons-free world, this is an opportunity where we can start down that road,” Corbyn said ahead of Monday’s vote.

The SNP, which holds 54 of the 650 House of Commons seats, firmly opposes renewing the Trident fleet, which is based on Scotland’s west coast.

ksb/jr (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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