France and Britain discussing nuclear cooperation

British Vanguard class submarine armed with Trident nuclear missiles

From James Blitz and Ben Hall, the Financial Times:  An agreement being negotiated by the UK and France would see British nuclear warheads serviced by French scientists and break with half a century in which neither country has collaborated on its independent deterrent.

Ahead of a summit in three weeks, the governments are close to agreeing that Britain would use a French laboratory to help maintain and service its 160 nuclear warheads, officials in both countries say. …

The scheme would give Britain access for the first time to France’s Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique, which maintains about 300 warheads in the French force de frappe. …

According to a person familiar with the negotiations, Britain has consulted the US over the proposed move. A US-UK treaty forbids Britain from sharing its nuclear secrets with another country because the UK deterrent, built on the Trident D5 missile, is in large part based on US technology. …

From Ben Hall and James Blitz, the Financial Times:  In recent weeks, however, there have been signs that both sides are finally prepared to talk nuclear to each other. British officials were recently invited for the first time to visit the French deterrent fleet while in port at Brest. A return visit was then paid by French officials to the Vanguard fleet at Faslane in Scotland.

“We were finally able to see for ourselves what the other side has,” says an official involved in one of the visits. “It was a moving moment. …”

However, the move would involve both countries sharing hitherto classified information about nuclear programmes.

“The fact is that once you start working on things like simulation of nuclear explosions, you begin sharing a lot of secrets,” says one defence expert.

Another argues: “Ultimately, it could mean that there would have to be a different successor to Trident in the UK. …”  (photo: AFP)

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