A member of Prime Minister Tony Blair's government resigned Monday to protest a multibillion-dollar plan to renew Britain's nuclear missile defense system.
Nigel Griffiths stepped down as deputy leader of the House of Commons so he can vote against the government on Wednesday in a key vote on extending the use of the Trident D5 missile until the early 2040s.
"I am resigning with a heavy heart but a clear conscience," Griffiths said in a statement after submitting his resignation letter to Blair.
Lawmakers from the ruling Labour Party are required to support the government in Wednesday's vote or face disciplinary measures.
Griffiths' resignation highlights the difficulties Blair faces in securing parliamentary approval for his plans to build a new generation of V-class submarines to carry Trident nuclear missiles.
With a large-scale rebellion expected within Blair's party which was committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament in the early 1980s the prime minister may need to rely on support from opposition Conservative lawmakers to win Wednesday's vote.
The proposal is expected to cost around 20 billion pounds, (US$40 billion; EUR30 billion).
A decision on whether Britain will build a new arsenal of nuclear warheads to replace current stocks expected to remain in service until the 2020s would not be taken before 2009, Blair has said.
Britain's existing submarine fleet will be phased out from 2022 and replacement vessels will take 17 years to build, defense officials said, reports AP.
Blair told parliament in December that the weapons ambitions of North Korea and Iran were proof of the enduring need for a defense system.