The British government has just published amendments updating a treaty that goes to the heart of the UK’s special relationship with the US.
They relate to the Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) first signed in 1958, which, according to the government, enables the UK and the US “nuclear warhead communities to collaborate on all aspects of nuclear deterrence including nuclear warhead design and manufacture”.
One amendment refers to potential threats from “state or non-state actors”. But the amendments are for the most part arcane and their significance cannot be understood in the absence of information which is kept secret.
The MDA does not have to be debated or voted on in parliament, as I have remarked before. Though the agreement is incorporated in US law, it has no legal status in Britain.
Yet the matters covered by the treaty, which is renewed only at 10 year intervals, are hugely important. Successive British governments have made clear a proper debate on the issues involved would not be welcome.