Two Anglo-French treaties were signed last autumn – one for Defence and Security Co-operation, and one ‘relating to Joint Radiographic/Hydrodynamics Facilities’. Ratification has just taken place – but these treaties raise serious questions about the willingness of both countries to adhere strictly to the terms of the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and to consider steps towards disarmament.
The expression used by Asterix the Gaul when confronting the Roman legions has strangely become the title of the just ratified treaties between France and the UK, sharing nuclear weapons research facilities. Teutatis is the name of a Celtic war god.1
Two Anglo-French treaties were signed last autumn – one for Defence and Security Co-operation,2 and one ‘relating to Joint Radiographic/Hydrodynamics Facilities’.3 The texts were ‘laid upon the table’ in the House of Commons but there was no demand for a debate. So under the Ponsonby rule they were cleared for ratification, which has just taken place. So much for democracy and the alertness of our representatives – because these treaties raise serious questions about the willingness of both countries to adhere strictly to the terms of the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and to consider steps towards disarmament (all of which may be discussed at the upcoming ‘P5’ meeting in Paris at the end of June).
Their official purpose includes exchange of classified information on nuclear weapons and the creation and operation of joint radiographic/hydrodynamics facilities. The radiological facility in France (Teutates EPURE) will be built at Valduc. The UK Teutates Technological Development Centre (TDC Facility) will be built at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston (AWE). The radiographic/hydrodynamics facilities will permit design of new generations of nuclear weapons. This is at odds with the spirit of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as well as the NPT. Cooperation between the UK and France is agreed to continue for the next 50 years – beyond the life expectancies of all the signatories including even our youthful Prime Minister. In 1996 the International Court of Justice said: ‘There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects…’. This obligation has already been in existence for 43 years. Another 50 years brings us beyond the lifetimes of the initial NPT signatories’ children.
There is also a possible loss of UK independence in making any moves towards nuclear disarmament and consequently to alter the focus of research at Aldermaston to purely maintenance, verification and transparency measures instead of warhead development. Information and technical transfers between the UK and France may well conflict with the letter as well as spirit of the NPT.
Absent a Parliamentary debate the UK and French Abolition 2000 groups held a joint London meeting on February 19 to discuss the consequences of the treaty and our responses to it. We looked at the treaties’ technical, legal and political aspects. Detailed reports are available from Claire Poyner4 and Peter Burt5, from Nuclear Information Service, who acted as keynote speaker. The attempts at discussion will continue in Paris at an Abolition 2000 France sponsored joint meeting on June 26. We hope to generate some ideas and comments to transmit to our representatives at the P5 meeting, also in Paris, being held later that week. We are cautiously optimistic that, although ratified, the Teutates treaties’ scope will be limited if ‘civil society’ concern can be demonstrated. As the Romans might say in reply to the Gauls, ‘Festina lente’.
1 Anglo-French Nuclear Treaty: The ‘Teutates’ Agreement: pamphlet by Joanna Bazley & Jim McCluskey; available from Abolition 2000 UK (mail(at)abolition2000uk.org).
2 Treaty between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the French Republic for Defence and Security Co-operation, November 2010 Cm 7976, HMSO.
3 Treaty between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the French Republic relating to Joint Radiographic/Hydrodynamics Facilities, November 2010 Cm 7975, HMSO.
4 Teutates meeting: notes by Claire Poyner ( at www.abolition2000uk.org).
5 Vive l’entente cordiale? Comments and downloadable material by Peter Burt (Nuclear Information Service) on the Teutates meeting (at nuclearinfo.org/node/2127 ).