Former armed forces minister warns British reputation under threat because of cuts
Britain is on the verge of “no longer being taken seriously” by other global powers because “defence has been cut to the bone,” a former armed forces minister has warned.
Speaking to the Sun, Sir Mike Penning warned British forces were so short staffed, exhausted and under-funded they may soon not be relied on to carry out vital international work.
The senior Conservative stepped down last year, claiming “enough was enough” after rounds and rounds of austerity measures had hit the armed forces.
He warned the SAS and SBS were exhausted, with soldiers leaving in their droves as they were constantly being deployed.
Sir Mike, 60, said: “Someone has to stand up and say, enough is enough. We’re down to the bone now.
“The legacy of austerity measures has been so severe that the British navy now no longer has the ships needed to fight piracy off the coast of Africa, he warned.
“The Army is too small. An army of 82,000 does not give us enough ready troops to deploy.
“If numbers go down any more, we are simply not going to be able to do what the British public expect of us, from our NATO and UN commitments to humanitarian missions.
“If you continue to develop the replacement Trident from the existing budget, that will dramatically affect the operational capability of the three armed forces - particularly the Army.
“I want the PM and the Chancellor to fund Trident replacement with a new pool of money that is kept entirely separate from the rest of the MoD’s budget.”
He called on Theresa May to plug the gap left in MoD funding by looking elsewhere for the cash to renew Trident.
This would pump £1bn into Britain’s forces and allow them to grow.
Sir Mike’s plea comes just before Theresa May is due to host French president Emmanuel Macron at Sandhurst, where they will discuss military operations.
Former soldier Sir Mike – who served eight years as a Grenadier Guard – explained: “You see will a decline in exercises, in flying times for fast jet and helicopter pilots, and we will get back to sailors shouting bang instead of firing real shells.
“I cannot condone going back to a time when we send our troops to war with just five rounds of ammunition, as they had to in Iraq.”
The army was also being sent into military exercises with the wrong equipment for the environment, he argued.
Sir Mike revealed: “We’re now putting armoured troops into Eastern Europe, which is the right thing to do, but we’ve sent them there with Jackal, the light vehicle designed for Afghanistan."