‘France offers joint nuclear deterrence, Britain reluctant’


London : French and British officials have discussed a nuclear deterrence-sharing scheme but Britain has opposed the idea “so far” on grounds of political unacceptability, a media report said Friday.

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The Guardian quoted an unnamed British official as confirming that the French government had proposed sharing the expensive task of patrolling the seas with nuclear weapons-armed submarines.

Known as “continuous at-sea deterrent”, the task has currently been undertaken individually by the two countries at a projected future cost to Britain of up to 100 billion pounds.

“We have talked about the idea of sharing continuity at sea as part of a larger discussion about sharing defence burdens,” a French official told the paper.

But it said Britain opposed the proposal, saying pooling sovereignty would cause “outrage” in the midst of a campaign for a general election due June 6.

Britain and France each run at least one nuclear-armed submarine submerged and undetected at any given time, the paper said, adding the usefulness of the expensive patrol “in a post-Cold War world has long been questioned by disarmament campaigners”.

Britain’s independent deterrent is based on Trident missiles carried by submarines, while France maintains a four-submarine Strategic Oceanic Force, with each submarine armed with 16 missiles.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown discussed the idea when the former visited London in March 2008 and the two leaders “discussed some issues on the nuclear agenda” at a meeting in the British capital last Friday.