UK to invest $66 million in new chemical weapons defence centre

By Adele Berti

The UK is to announce plans to build a new chemical weapons defence centre in a bid to protect itself from Russia and North Korea.

The move, which comes in the wake of the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergej Skripal and his daughter, will see the government pour $66 million into a centre located at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in Porton Down.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is set to outline the plan in a speech today.

He will reportedly talk about the “shocking and reckless” attack of Skripal and his daughter Yulia, which represents a proof of the growing threats posed by Russia and North Korea.

The Defence Secretary will add that the UK’s leading expertise and research into chemical, biological and radiological warfare needs more development if it wants to face future hostile situations.

As a response to the Kremlin’s alleged culpability for using a nerve agent on the spy, the UK is also expelling 23 Russian diplomats.

“We know the chemical threat doesn’t just come from Russia but from others,” Williamson is to say.

I can announce we will be strengthening this capability by investing £48 million ($66 million) in a new Chemical Weapons Defence Centre to ensure we maintain our cutting edge in chemical analysis and defence.

A vaccine against anthrax – a bacterial disease used during a series of bio-terror attacks in the US in 2001 – will be offered on a voluntary basis to thousands of British troops who are held at high-readiness as a precaution.

The Ministry of Defence is currently reviewing Britain’s defences and choosing what the spending priorities should be.

As Whitehall debates whether to invest in conventional forces or shift towards cyber warfare and intelligence gathering, Williamson is to suggest investment on the 77th Brigade, which was created in 2015 to deal with propaganda but is not fully functioning.

In his speech, the Defence Secretary will also claim that modernisation “will mean taking our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to the next level and it will mean accelerating the development of our innovative 77th Brigade – those reservists and regulars who give us the ability to win the information war – so we create and counter the narratives so central to modern conflict”.

Williamson will also add:

As Brexit beckons, the eyes of the world are on us. Rest assured our adversaries will be watching even more closely than our allies. This is our moment to retain our competitive advantage.

In the days after Prime Minister Theresa May urged the Kremlin for an explanation on the nerve attack, Moscow replied condemning the UK’s unacceptable provocations and threatened reprisals.