Protestors from around the country marched to the gates of RAF Fylingdales radar base in North Yorkshire today in the largest demonstration against British involvement in US Missile Defence in recent years. The demonstrators, who had come from as far as Edinburgh and London, formed a long procession as they marched along the A169 to the main gates of the base where they handed a letter of protest into base commander Greg Hammond.

The letter called on the government to note public opposition to US Missile Defence and the obstacles the system presents to pushing forward the new international disarmament agenda, currently being discussed by the US and Russia.

The event at Fylingdales marked the previous day’s seventh anniversary of the US abandonment of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, a step taken to allow the US to develop the missile defence system.

A message of support from the Czech Ne Zakladnam (No Bases) movement was read out at the rally which preceded the march. The message highlighted in particular the pressure that the Czech movement had successfully brought to bear on the Czech parliament. The Topolanek government had been forced to withdraw the treaties supporting Czech participation in the system so that it did not lose a ratification vote. As Ne Zakladnam stated, the government’s collapse was due to the proposed radar being “a core of their political identity.”

The demonstration at Fylingdales follows the release of a YouGov opinion poll which shows the strength of opposition in Britain to the European deployment of US Missile Defence (see note 3). The poll shows almost three fifths (58%) of people agree that the siting of components of the US Missile Defence system in the UK and Europe will increase international tension between the US and Russia and, as a result, increase the threat to UK and European security, compared to less than 1 in 5 (19%) who disagree. Over half (53%) of the public agree that the Obama administration should cancel the plans for the bases in Europe, compared to only 1 in 5 (20% exactly) who disagree.

Kate Hudson, CND Chair said, ‘The possibility of major global reductions in nuclear weapons – leading towards eventual global abolition – is on the agenda for the first time in many years. There have been positive statements from Presidents Obama and Medvedev to this end, but US missile defence remains a major obstacle to successful negotiations. It is highly regrettable that the British government continues to support this system, putting Britain on the front line in future US wars, in spite of majority public opinion against. Gordon Brown has stated government commitment to multilateral nuclear disarmament yet he is backing a system which directly militates against it. This policy must be changed and Britain must pull out of the US missile defence system and use its special relationship with the US to encourage President Obama to cancel the system in its entirety.’