Nuclear Education Trust

Defence Diversification: International learning for Trident jobs.

Scrapping Trident need not cost jobs, new study shows

A report from the Nuclear Education Trust, an independent charity, - launched in Parliament this summer – concludes that it would be possible to disarm the UK's Trident nuclear weapons system without massive job losses, on the basis of evidence from defence diversification projects around the world. The executive summary can be read here and a short video on the contents of the report can be viewed here. The report recommends that for defence diversification to succeed in the UK the lessons from international experiences of defence diversification must be learned:

  • Workers and communities must take the lead in making decisions for diversification, but a broad partnership involving all stakeholders is necessary for success.
  • Political support for diversification must come from national, regional and local levels.
  • Action must be taken at early stages to proactively assist communities in diversification, rather than reacting to a crisis. Suggested timelines to organise and plan for diversification range from three to five years as a minimum.
  • Funding must be available not just for putting a plan into action but for organising, analysis of the situation, planning and then implementation.
  • Existing organisations, relationships and expertise must be identified and taken advantage of and efforts should be made to ease the transition into more competitive civil markets. Joint ventures and network learning should be encouraged.

Press reports include the following from The Guardian, The HeraldSTV and Morning Star.


In response to the report Fabian Hamilton, MP, Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, said "While it is not yet Labour Party policy to scrap Trident, I am committed, not only to transitioning away from nuclear weapons, but to protecting jobs at the same time. High-skilled jobs are good for our economy and, if we decide to transition away from Trident, defence diversification is the only way to ensure that the vital skills used in the development of Britain's nuclear weapons are not lost.

A defence diversification strategy would go hand in hand with Labour's plan to invest in our economy. We do not lack the talent, we simply lack the funding. There is no denying that Trident is a major employer in some parts of the country, so proper funding must be made available so those in high-skilled work, stay in high-skilled work."

TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak added: "The UK's defence capability will always need to change over time to safeguard against new threats in a changing world. When decisions are made, it's important to protect and prioritise good quality UK jobs and the communities linked to the defence industry. Unions and the workforce should have a say in creating new opportunities for highly skilled workers in defence and other advanced manufacturing and engineering industries."

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, MP for Kemptown & Peacehaven, remarked that British jobs should not be reliant on customers who regularly commit war crimes with their products, and they should be protected as much as possible from the growing tide of automation that has been hitting the arms manufacturing sector hard. The livelihoods of thousands of workers in the defence industries in Lancashire and Cumbria have been thrown away to market forces for years now. We cannot stand by and do nothing."

"It is vital that we transform British manufacturing by diversifying British jobs away from the inherently unstable arms-export markets and towards the national defence and the civilian sectors, particularly in transport and renewable energy. Labour will properly resource a Defence Diversification Agency and learn from promising initiatives abroad to ensure that British engineers have decently-paid and socially useful work."

Peter Burt, Nuclear Education Trust Trustee concluded that “Our independent analysis of international experience of defence diversification tells us that a government needs to be proactive in getting the conditions right for a successful transition from skilled defence jobs to those in the equally skilled, civil sector. Those conditions include complete stakeholder participation including workers and communities, and national, regional and local political support. Proactive planning and comprehensive funding, with continued learning for effective implementation are essential for success."

"Many defence industry jobs are at risk from automation, global supply chains, changes in strategic thinking as well as the sheer cost of the work in today's austere financial climate. The Nuclear Education Trust calls on the current and future governments to make use of the findings of this research and integrate them into an effective defence diversification policy, part of a comprehensive industrial strategy."

About the author
Barnaby Pace writes, researches and campaigns on politics and security. His work has featured in the SIPRI Yearbook, the edited collection African Muckraking, published by Jacana Media, and Offensive Insecurity, published by Scientists for Global Responsibility. He was a primary researcher for Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, and holds a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Warwick.


Employment in the UK arms industry has been in decline for several decades. This decline is due to the increasingly capital intensive nature of the work carried out in the UK, automation, globalised supply chains, limited increases in defence spending and a highly competitive arms export market.

Despite the 2016 Parliamentary vote to renew the UK 's Trident nuclear weapons, uncertainties remain over the future of the programme, particularly in terms of affordability, technical feasibility and political commitment (especially if the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is ratified internationally). There remains the possibility that in the event of a change of government at the 2020 UK election, the project will be scaled back or wound down.

NET has therefore funded research to explore how defence diversification, as it has been demonstrated in international case studies, can be used to tackle the opportunities and challenges brought about by changes in defence spending and its effects on employment in the UK .

The results of the work were discussed at a well attended launch in Committee Room 18, Westminster, 4pm Tuesday June 26th.  Chris Williamson MP chaired the event, Fabian Hamilton MP, Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament and Paul Nowak, TUC Deputy General Secretary both spoke. Notes from the meeting can be read here.


The Nuclear Education Trust would like to thank the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust for its grant to fund this work.