UK 'could lose status as credible military power' without defence funding boost

Posted On: 
12th March 2018

A former top military commander has urged Philip Hammond to inject cash into the armed forces immediately or risk undermining the reputation of the UK as a “credible military power”.

Rear Admiral Alex Burton said the UK should spend at least 2.5% of GDP on defence
PA Images

Rear Admiral Alex Burton - the ex-commander of the Maritime Forces - said the ability to “fight and win on the front line” was being affected by budget restrictions.

It comes after months of wrangling over the defence budget between Tory MPs who want more cash to prevent personnel cuts - including Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson - and the Chancellor.

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Mr Hammond will deliver his Spring Statement tomorrow but despite suggesting the UK finances will be better than previously expected he has vowed not to make any new spending commitments.

Rear Admiral Burton, who quit the armed forces last autumn, told the BBC: "If you do not spend more on defence than we currently are as a percentage of GDP, then we put at risk the fact that we are currently a credible military power, and from that we put at risk our position on the global stage."

He said defence spending should rise to at least 2.5% of GDP (an extra £7.7bn) to support global trade after Brexit. It currently stands at the Nato recommended 2%.

"The challenge is ensuring that we're still able to [fight and win] not just over the next 12 to 18 months, but that we're able to do that over the next 10 to 20 years," he added.

He said without a strong military “we will be unable to deter, we'll be unable to reassure and deliver retribution”.

And he went on: "As a sovereign nation - an increasingly sovereign nation - I think that's critically important.

"Our insurance policy, I believe, will be compromised and our ability to stand up for our beliefs and protect our interests will be weakened.”

It comes two weeks after former vice chief of the defence staff, General Sir Gordon Messenger, argued the case should be made for a “bigger defence budget”.

A Treasury spokesperson told the broadcaster: "The UK maintains the biggest defence budget in Europe and the fifth largest in the world, already exceeding NATO's 2% spending target...

"Over the next three years, the defence budget is increasing by £1bn a year."

Asked about defence spending on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, Mr Hammond said:  “It’s the fastest-growing resource budget in Whitehall. So defence isn‘t being cut by any means.”