Labour members declare Aukus military pact ‘dangerous’ threat to world peace

Conference delegates defy Keir Starmer by voting to oppose UK’s new military agreement

Adam Forrest
Monday 27 September 2021 17:23
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US, UK and Australia agree to new Indo-Pacific security pact

A new military pact involving the UK, US and Australia “undermines world peace” and should be opposed, Labour Party members have declared.

Conference delegates voted overwhelming in favour of an emergency motion which condemned the deal forged by Boris Johnson’s government – dubbed Aukus – calling it a “dangerous move”.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed the pact was “starting a new nuclear arms race and cold war” and said members should “keep speaking out against it”.

It marks another clash between members and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who backed the military partnership earlier this month and said “Britain must look after our most important relationships”.

The motion – approved by 70 per cent to 30 per cent – at the Labour conference in Brighton stated: “Conference believes that in contradiction to Tory PM Johnson’s statement that ‘this will promote stability in the Indo-Pacific region’, in fact, this is a dangerous move which will undermine world peace.”

The conference vote was immediately condemned by the GMB union, which warned opposition to the new military agreement “undermines industries where jobs are under threat”.

Under the terms of the Aukus 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.

It will also see the three countries share new military technology, including artificial intelligence and cyber defence plans.

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

France was also left angered by Australia’s decision to cancel a lucrative contract to provide subs – sparking a row in which Mr Johnson said the French should to “donnez-moi un break”.

GMB regional secretary Hazel Nolan said the 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 internal row came after shadow defence secretary John Healey used his conference speech to attempt to burnish Labour’s defence credentials.

Mr Healey said he wanted Labour to “no longer be half-hearted about essential alliances and treaties” in the UN, Nato and the International Court of Justice.

“We will give the highest priority to security in Europe, North Atlantic and Arctic, pursuing new defence co-operation with European Nato neighbours,” he said. “We will insist on the UK’s say with the US as our most essential ally, stepping up Britain’s leadership in Nato.”

He also promised a future Labour government would give a £35m boost for mental health care for British veterans and Afghan personnel now living in the UK.

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