Europe

Parliament to vote on renewing Britain's nuclear arsenal

  • FILE - This Jan. 20, 2016 file photo shows the Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant, one of four Royal Navy submarines armed with Trident missiles, at HM Naval Base Clyde, also known as Faslane, Scotland. British lawmakers are due to vote Monday July 18, 2016, on whether to replace the country's fleet of nuclear-armed submarines, a powerful but expensive symbol of the country's military status. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)

    FILE - This Jan. 20, 2016 file photo shows the Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant, one of four Royal Navy submarines armed with Trident missiles, at HM Naval Base Clyde, also known as Faslane, Scotland. British lawmakers are due to vote Monday July 18, 2016, on whether to replace the country's fleet of nuclear-armed submarines, a powerful but expensive symbol of the country's military status. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at the National Assembly for Wales building in Cardiff,  Wales for a bilateral meeting with the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones Monday July 18, 2016. ( Yui Mok/PA via AP)

    Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at the National Assembly for Wales building in Cardiff, Wales for a bilateral meeting with the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones Monday July 18, 2016. ( Yui Mok/PA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

British lawmakers are due to vote Monday on whether to replace the country's fleet of nuclear-armed submarines, a powerful but expensive symbol of the country's military status.

The Conservative government is determined to maintain Britain's nuclear deterrent, which consists of four Royal Navy submarines armed with Trident missiles. It says replacing the aging submarines will cost up to 41 billion pounds ($54 billion) over 20 years.

Prime Minister Theresa May will open the debate in her first address to Parliament since taking office last week.

Her office says May will say that "the nuclear threat has not gone away, if anything, it has increased," and it would be reckless to abandon the country's "ultimate safeguard."

"We cannot outsource the grave responsibility we shoulder for keeping our people safe," she will say, according to extracts released in advance of the afternoon debate.

Britain has been a nuclear power since the 1950s, and both Labour and Conservative governments have consistently supported atomic weapons.

May's Conservatives made replacing the four submarines — Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant and Vengeance — a promise in last year's election.

The Conservatives have a small majority in the House of Commons, and lawmakers are likely to back renewal, despite opposition from the Scottish National Party and some Labour Party members.

Nuclear disarmament has been a lifelong cause for beleaguered Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is facing a leadership challenge from disgruntled lawmakers. Many Labour legislators will probably vote to keep the nuclear program to protect thousands of unionized defense jobs.