Belgium reportedly refused to supply the UK with a crucial component needed to maintain its nuclear arsenal
A rift has emerged between Britain and Belgium after Brussels blocked the export of a key component to maintaining Britain’s nuclear arsenal, The Times reported on Friday. In response, the UK reportedly threatened to cancel a lucrative arms order with FN Herstal, an arms company based in Belgium.
Two weeks ago the Belgian government refused to allow the export of a specialist isostatic press, which is needed to maintain Britain’s nuclear weapons because the Greens, who oppose nuclear weapons and are part of the ruling coalition, vetoed the proposal, according to the report. .
Belgian media also reported, citing sources, that on November 9 the government failed to approve the export of nuclear technology for the British military.
According to the Times, the row escalated when Belgian officials warned that the UK could halt a 600 million euro ($624 million) order to procure machine guns made by FN Herstal if Brussels did not change its mind.
Two senior Belgian government sources quoted by The Times expressed concern that the dispute could “endanger Western unity and NATO” in the midst of the Ukrainian conflict.
In the meantime, according to the Minister of Economy Willy Borsus, the negotiations on the contract between FN Herstal and the United Kingdom “are still ongoing.”
The high pressure isostatic press is used for radioactive waste handling and is involved in the manufacturing process at the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, the UK Ministry of Defense nuclear facility. A senior Belgian government source described the machines as “unique in the world,” according to the BusinessAM website.
The Times’ sources, however, argue that the UK’s nuclear capabilities will remain unhindered even without Belgium’s cooperation. “While we are aware of the ongoing challenge, the equipment does not affect continued deterrence at sea,” a Royal Navy source told the outlet.
Faced with the controversy, Georges Gilkinet, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and member of the green Ecolo party, denounced the media leaks on this subject as “a grave mistake.” Meanwhile, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the government had yet to make a final decision.
“The British are our neighbours, our partners in many areas, including within NATO. At times like these, it’s important to appreciate it, but it’s also necessary that the law be obeyed,” he said, referring to the upcoming decision of a nuclear non-proliferation committee.
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