Labour members reject new UK military pact despite leadership’s global ambitions

·2-min read
Shadow defence secretary John Healey during his speech at the Labour Party conference (PA) (PA Wire)
Shadow defence secretary John Healey during his speech at the Labour Party conference (PA) (PA Wire)

Labour members opposed a new UK military pact just hours after the party leadership insisted Britain should “no longer be half-hearted” about essential alliances.

An emergency motion at Labour Party conference criticised the agreement between the UK, US and Australia dubbed Aukus, amid fears it is a “dangerous move which will undermine world peace”.

It added the deal will not promote stability in the Indo-Pacific region and urged the party to recommit its support for enforcing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

This deal could be a real opportunity for UK manufacturing. To dismiss it out of hand is nonsense

GMB regional secretary Hazel Nolan

But the vote was condemned by the GMB union, which warned opposition to the pact “undermines industries where jobs are under threat”.

It also came after shadow defence secretary John Healey told delegates that Britain would “no longer be half-hearted about essential alliances and treaties” under a Labour government.

Leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed “increased cooperation” with Australia and the US when the deal was announced earlier this month.

Under the terms of the pact, the three allies have agreed to co-operate on the development for the first time of a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for the Australian navy.

The move, widely interpreted as an attempt to check China’s growing military assertiveness in the region, was swiftly condemned by Beijing as a “geopolitical gaming tool”.

France was also left angered by Australia cancelling a lucrative contract to provide subs.

GMB regional secretary Hazel Nolan said Labour conference has “proven itself to be out of touch and on the wrong side of job creation once again”.

She added: “This deal could be a real opportunity for UK manufacturing. To dismiss it out of hand is nonsense.

“If it ever wants to be in power, Labour needs to get back to its roots and speak up for jobs and the concerns of working people.”

The motion was approved by 70.35% to 29.65% by delegates at the conference in Brighton.

In an earlier speech, Mr Healey said he wanted Britain to “no longer be half-hearted about essential alliances and treaties” in the United Nations, Nato, Five Eyes and the International Court of Justice.

He added: “We will give the highest priority to security in Europe, North Atlantic and Arctic, pursuing new defence co-operation with European Nato neighbours.

“We will lead moves in the UN to negotiate new multilateral arms controls and rules of conflict for space, cyber and AI.

“We will insist on the UK’s say with the US as our most essential ally, stepping up Britain’s leadership in Nato.”

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