Reconciling the Irreconcilable?
: British Nuclear Weapons and the Non-Proliferation Treaty, 1997-2007

  • Tristan John Price

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the evolution of the relationship between nuclear weapons and the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in UK policy, with a focus on the first ten years of the New Labour Government, 1997-2007. By approaching the NPT from the perspective of an international security regime, the thesis argues that the relationship between the two strands of policy – nuclear weapons and the NPT – should be understood in relation to the changing normative framework of the NPT’s disarmament pillar. The influence of the NPT in shaping policy was both enabling and constraining. It was enabling to the extent that the developments in the disarmament pillar of the NPT allowed the Government to frame its nuclear weapons policy in terms of multilateral disarmament without directly impinging on its nuclear future. It was constraining to the extent that it placed pressure on policy-makers to continue to make further cuts in capability, to recognize that incremental reductions were part of its obligations under the NPT, and to accept that the goal of nuclear disarmament was a clear and distinct obligation under the terms of the Treaty. The thesis argues that ultimately the tensions between what was considered the strategic imperative of nuclear weapons and the disarmament imperative in the NPT were not resolved by the New Labour Government, but in examining how the Government’s endeavours to reconcile the irreconcilable shaped policy, the thesis highlights one of the most pressing issues in British foreign and defence policy, and develops an understanding of the operation of one of the most important international regimes for global security.
Date of Award2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council
SupervisorKenneth Booth (Supervisor) & Nicholas John Wheeler (Supervisor)

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