Strategic thinking for defence

As the UK moves on from substantial military interventions in the Middle East we need a new statement of why we have armed forces and how we wish to use them. Past Secretaries of State for defence have tended to be preoccupied with day to day battles over budgets, with defence reviews that have been budget exercises in the main, and until recently with a series of difficult interventions in Middle Eastern wars alongside our allies. They have not set out clearly what our longer term aims as a country are and how well trained and equipped forces can help us achieve them. It would be a good task for the relatively new Secretary of State to set out what our forces should be and what they can do in the years ahead.

We need to look to history to see what we have needed in the past. The UK has been an active and engaged country with interests around the world. We have used our forces to back up our trade and diplomacy. We have stood in recent years for democracy, freedom and self determination of peoples, intervening against aggressors in places like Kuwait and the Falklands.

Today we do not see any threat of invasion and are enjoying a peace which has been long and enduring with our nearest neighbours.Over the longer haul we have stood against any single dominant military power emerging on the continent, where such a dominant power proceeds by conquest and eclipses liberties and self determination for smaller countries. This has required substantial forces to overcome Spanish aggression in the sixteenth century, French aggression in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and German aggression in the twentieth. We had to defeat a seaborne armada that got close to our coasts in 1588 from Spain, had to defeat the combined Spanish and French fleets at Trafalgar to prevent their seizing the channel to allow an invasion to cross the narrow seas, and had to win the battle of Britain in the air in 1940 to avoid a German invasion. Defence of the home base mainly required seapower, boosted by airpower in 1940. Control of the Channel was a successful first line of defence in each case. Only once since 1066 have we been successfully invaded. This was in 1688 by the Dutch when much of the British establishment welcomed the invading force and accepted William and Mary’s claim to the throne.

The first duty of our defence forces must be to prevent invasion of our home islands, Fortunately we live in an age when a planned invasion from a nearby continental European country looks impossible. This should not, however, lead to complacency as history has taught us that a threat can emerge swiftly and needs countering and in a mobile age can come from further afield.

History also shows us that the UK has in the past intervened in large wars with land forces. Here our experiences have been more mixed and often marred by bitter and large loss. Usually government commits the country to a war which our available forces cannot possibly win as they are too small. During the war there has to be a massive investment in personnel and weaponry to scale the forces to the task in hand. In 1914 a small highly professional army was committed to the continent ill prepared for contemporary trench and machine gun warfare, only to lose a large proportion of the force. The next four years were spent recruiting a massive citizens army and training it to modern realities to go on to win with our allies. After the US joined in 1917 the mass killing stalemate at last started to move in the direction of an Allies win. In 1939 again a small professional force was committed to the continent, only to be forced into rapid and dangerous retreat, losing much of its equipment and requiring the miracle evacuation of Dunkirk to save most of the people. Thereafter a larger army was recruited and the continent successfully retaken once the US and other forces joined the cause. We should learn from this experience that we need enormous flexibility of supply and recruitment should a national emergency arise.

The second duty of our forces is to be available to handle any national emergency where they can assist the civil power. Great Britain has a long tradition of not wanting a standing army, and resisting interference from the military in politics. Today we have a very professional army that keeps to its clearly understood constitutional role, and is available and willing to help in flood relief or disaster response if needed. As the armed forces have heavy lift helicopters, other military vehicles, and fit and well trained personnel available it makes sense in extreme conditions to ask them support the civilian services that normally handle these matters.

The third duty of our forces is to be available for intervention abroad. If a dependent territory or ally needs military help, or if we need to contribute to a UN mission as members of the Security Council, we need to have flexible and responsive forces that can be taken to a trouble spot or war promptly and effectively. To do this we need the ability to project force by air and sea, and the capacity to lift troops and equipment quickly to where they are needed. This requires carrier groups of ships, air cover and air attack capacity, and heavy lift to take batallions and their vehicles and equipment over long distances.


    September 11, 2018

    Is there a precedent in our history in which its military commanders are demanded they take their orders from a PM or leader that is contemptuous of them, almost a threat to their existence?

    Corbyn, McDonnell and McCluskey represent a significant threat to our armed forces and indeed the nation even more so than a foreign enemy. They are truly the enemy within

    Our commanders would surely find it intolerable that they would find themselves in a situation in which they would be taking their direction from a PM who despises who and what they are

    What is the constitutional and legal position for a military commander to defy the orders of his ultimate superior, the PM?

    1. eeyore
      September 11, 2018

      Duncan – A commander’s ultimate superior is the Queen, to whom he or she owes personal loyalty. The military are far from powerless against their political masters, but ultimately officers who cannot accept their orders must resign their commissions.

      In assessing potential threats to Britain, JR concentrates on those which might require military response. He doesn’t mention the cyber world, where one might expect conflicts to be fought out in future. A power whose military, civil and financial codes are broken and whose orders cannot be transmitted is in no position to fight, regardless of its military strength.

      The very essence of cyber security is mathematical superiority. Victory will go to whoever has the best mathematicians. Traditional powers like Britain have no monopoly here. Are our schools and universities up to the job?

    2. Oggy
      September 11, 2018

      Indeed Duncan, not forgetting also that the Home Secretary in project fear Mk 2 said he would use the army to quell civil unrest with regard to people’s frustrations over Brexit, pitting the army against the people. That’s what civil wars are made of.

      The Government doesn’t learn from history.

    3. agricola
      September 11, 2018

      One’s first allegiance is to the Queen in extremis.

    4. The Prangwizard
      September 11, 2018

      I would.suggest that you could add some government names to your list, and very senior ones at that.

    5. Adam
      September 11, 2018


      JR indicates that our forces have a duty to handle any civil emergency where they can assist the civil power.

      Inadequate police, & crimes’ Emerging Urgency equal Emergency. So cannot the forces who exist to defend us help our police to defend us from crime? Even unarmed plain clothes assistants would help!

    6. ian wragg
      September 11, 2018

      I think if that were the case then the men in grey suits would quickly have Corbyn and his gang removed.
      The leaders of the armed forces I am certain wouldn’t let them create havoc.

    7. William Long
      September 11, 2018

      A Military Commander’s ultimate superior is the Sovereign, and it is to her, or him, he (or she to be politically correct) should go.

    8. Norman
      September 11, 2018

      There’s also the issue of national identity. Suppose we had a demographic bias in favour of (say) Russia, as was the case in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. This would undermine any response against a Russian invasion. The same might apply in certain Baltic States. Could large migratory influxes create mixed loyalties, effectively neutralizing the values of the host culture?

      1. Mitchel
        September 11, 2018

        The “migratory influxes” do not need to be particularly large,just more assertive than the indigenous population(like the Hellenistic states that replaced the Persian Empire,the Germanic states that replaced the western Roman Empire ,the Asiatic dynasties that ruled China for most of the second millenium AD or the Turco-Mongols who ruled Iran for the last five hundred years before 1925).

    9. NickC
      September 11, 2018

      Duncan, The gravest threat is the EU, not Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. Since it looks increasingly likely we will get the Robbins (Chequers) Remain plan, with subservience to EU military, security and diplomatic power built in, our armed services will be serving Herr Juncker’s successor.

      1. Southsouthwest
        September 11, 2018

        NickC.. yes and Herr Junkers successor could very well be Michel that should be interesting with Verhofstadt as head of the EU Council? But it won’t matter one bit to us because we’ll be out of it.

        Looks like we will very likely get the chequers plan now but it will be a watered down version, my guess is it will be a plan bordering on Canada plus plus.. well since the ERG or nobody else has brought forward a realistic alternative proposal apart from WTO rules by JR I cannot see what else there is. If Liam fox could only point the way to new deals and brighter future I might be reassured but alas..nothing coming from that quarter either..Today the Russians and the Chinese are conducting military manoeuvres with 300,000 men and 3000 tanks..I don’t think the Americans with all their might could match what were we saying about the UK armed forces capability?.. it hardly counts in the grander scheme of things.

    10. Peter D Gardner
      September 11, 2018

      Despite Cameron’s rebuke to the CDS, “You do the fighting, I’ll do the talking”, the Government needs to remember that every single member of the Armed Forces is a volunteer. Every single one of them from CDS and the Heads of Army, Navy and Air Force down is free to resign. Although the Services themselves may take up to a year or longer to release members, those at the top would leave immediately.

  2. Mark B
    September 11, 2018

    Good morning

    I have stated these things here before, so please forgive me but I feel they are worth repeating.

    Our future enemy is within the gates. Thanks for that.

    Before we can determine what sort of armed forces we want we must first determine what foreign policy we have. Outside the EU proper we would no longer be bound by the EU Foreign Action Service. One would hope therefore we would take a less hostile view and no longer seek regime change.

    Future wars between our near neighbours has become impossible due to nuclear weapons. So I only see those on the continent as competitors in a global market and not future adversaries.

    Cyber war is the war, not of the future, but now ! We needs to start to look into this and parliament needs to take this more seriously.

    Let us hope that we remain at peace with our neighbours, and please, please, please, stop antagonizing Russia. They have never threatened us.

    1. Mark B
      September 12, 2018

      I have said nothing that I have not said before or anything that anyone here has said already. So why the delay?

      Are you a little embarrassed?

  3. Norman
    September 11, 2018

    A perplexing task, but not insurmountable. We need functionality that’s compatible with our key NATO allies, but also tailored to a decent stand-alone integrity that could be scaled up.
    We could also learn lessons from the IDF, among them the ideal that all citizens have a responsibility to defend the nation (National Service), and effective defensive and strike capabilities.
    Thirdly, we need to hone our intelligence and diplomatic services to maximal effect, and optimal outcomes – possibly we are already quite good in this area, but a regular strategic review would seem to be desirable.
    Note – there are nasty things going on at the moment in NW Syria, and Iraq which are not even featuring in our MSM: such indifference is troubling.

    1. Norman
      September 11, 2018

      PS: There is now some BBC coverage of NW Syria, but very general, and pathetically shallow.

  4. Mike Stallard
    September 11, 2018

    Thank you, Mr Redwood, for your three important reasons for our armed forces.
    I wonder how the massive aircraft carrier without planes helps here since, I am told, it had no support vessels to form a defensive fleet round it.
    You didn’t mention cyber war.
    Also there is always terrorism which needs armed support.

    Reply There are planes for the carriers and they have been flying off them.

    1. NickC
      September 11, 2018

      Mike Stallard, There is no reason to have armed services at all as we will be subservient to the EU under the Robbins revolving-door Remain plan. Why bear the expense when others benefit?

    2. ChrisS
      September 11, 2018

      Yes, John, spoken like a true politician.

      What you said in your reply to Mike is indeed factually correct, however, there are just two F35s currently being flown off HMS Queen Elizabeth. They both belong to the US Marine Corps and will be handed back to the Marines at the end of the trials !

      Each of our new carriers have a capacity of up to 36 F35s however the initial order will see us with only a total of 48 aircraft to be delivered by 2025.

      According to the Guardian, when HMS Queen Elizabeth first deploys in 2021 (!) she will have only one UK squadron of just 12 F35s and a second squadron is to be provided by the Americans.

      Hardly a force to be reckoned with.

      Ref :

      1. ChrisS
        September 11, 2018

        Note : There are believed to be nine F35s currently undergoing testing in the UK prior to entering service with the re-formed 617 squadron

    3. mickc
      September 11, 2018

      But the planes, F35 s are not as good as those they are replacing…and inferior to current Russian warplanes.

      Further, the Gordon Brown class aircraft carriers can only operate under the protection of a US support fleet….which probably cannot protect itself from the new Russian hypersonic missiles.

      We should not have built the Gordon Brown class carriers or bought F35s. ..we should have developed our own planes, either alone or with others. We have no need for aircraft carriers….or Trident in fact because it cannot be used without US consent.

  5. The Prangwizard
    September 11, 2018

    We had a significant merchant fleet carrying our trade which we defended. We have neglected that recently and have abandoned it to others. Thus should change. We still need the trade, do it in our merchant vessels then we can legitinately project ourselves in their defence. Abandon post colonial guilt and put Britain and the UK first again

  6. timeout
    September 11, 2018

    It’s timeout time!

  7. Lifelogic
    September 11, 2018


    But procurement and strategy has generally been appallingly run of late. With massive waste and misdirection of £billions of people’s taxes. How will the goverment ensure this is not repeated? If we do finally get back to being an independent nation (despite the best effects of May and Hammond) it will certainly help.

    1. John Hatfield
      September 11, 2018

      We need to reduce the size of the state sector which, together with its pensions, gobbles up much of government income.

  8. Peter R
    September 11, 2018

    The interdiction of our national infrastructure no longer requires an enemies physical attack on these islands. A cyber attack could bring bring down our power supplies as surely as a bombing attack on our power stations. Similarly a biological or chemical attack can be carried out from afar and by enemies far less identifiable than nation states. Our defensive (and offensive) capabilities in these spheres should be included in the defense debate.

    1. Ian wragg
      September 11, 2018

      With regard to our essential utilities we should ensure that all plant can be operated manually. It’s all very well having DCS controlled power stations but relying entirely on computers makes them very vulnerable.
      Contracts should ensure redundancy in the system.
      We should also ban Chinese companies from participating.

      1. Bob
        September 11, 2018

        Nationalise essential utilities.

    2. margaret
      September 11, 2018

      I agree Peter . Intelligence is too sophisticated now to consider past methods of defence.If flexing muscles in the way of large vessels etc is considered appropriate I feel we would be making a fool of ourselves.
      We could be brought down easily by slow constant ownership of all that is British. We have seen it over the last 30 years. We have seen war on the British insidiously in the form of terrorism and we have seen the gullible ready to give away and deliberate movement of peoples ready to take our Country from us. Why do we need to defend what we are losing anyway ?

  9. formula57
    September 11, 2018

    “…or if we need to contribute to a UN mission as members of the Security Council” – well let us relinquish our seat then on the grounds we have for too long and for too little or nil reward pulled others’ chestnuts out of the fire.

    Should we not be preparing for European wars, following Mr. Cameron’s remarks during the EU referendum? Unlike the daft adventurism in the Middle East (that continues apace), let the government plan to do no more than profit by arms sales to both sides.

    1. Bob
      September 11, 2018


      “Should we not be preparing for European wars, following Mr. Cameron’s remarks during the EU referendum?”

      That would be the prudent decision if you want peace (prepare for war).

  10. Bob
    September 11, 2018


    “military commanders are demanded they take their orders from a PM or leader that is contemptuous of them”

    Add the current PM to the list of suspects, she would hand over control of what’s left of the British military to Brussels at the first opportunity, and the conservatives don’t have sufficient support in Parliament to prevent it.

  11. Repiman
    September 11, 2018

    Trying to dodge the big issue? Tell us where the ERG alternative to Chequers is. Did you lose the argument for no deal?

  12. agricola
    September 11, 2018

    We need foremost to define the threat, an ongoing process as technology progresses. At present we need to make our power supply and computer use bullet proof, because this is where we are vulnerable. We are moving towards total dependence on electricity, a very dangerous situation. One source of power means one target.

    We need to be unequivocal in where we stand in relation to our overseas territories. No more Falkland wrong messages, particularly in relation to Gibraltar. It was the sending of the wrong message by our politicians that gave Argentine the incentive to invade. We need to ask ourselves of the extent to which we are prepared to expend British lives on resolving feuds among tin pot nations around the World.

    Both World wars and supporting US foreign policy in the Middle East has cost us heavily. We need to redefine our interests worldwide and concentrate on becoming wealthy once more.

  13. Sakara Gold
    September 11, 2018

    An accurate and interesting historical analysis of our role and involvement in major conflicts over the centuries. As an island trading nation we have traditionally had a strong navy to defend these shores, however the RN role today has changed.

    Previously, the Navy had a major anti-submarine capability; in both world wars the enemy engaged in unrestricted submarine warfare which threatened our global trade routes and which came close to starving us into submission. This role requires quantity as well as quality, we needed escort ships which today are much reduced in numbers.

    The government took a decision to build a different navy when we ordered the two new carriers – a role to project power overseas. These ships are extremely expensive to build and operate and the RN has been cut back substantially in numbers, in part to pay for them. The cutbacks have extended to the army, which today is pitifully small in comparison to the only current continental threat. Russia is this week undertaking military excercises in Siberia involving 300,000 troops, the Russian army emphasises firepower – artilliery, rocket launchers, attack warplanes and the British army is substantially outgunned.

    Gavin Williamson is sensibly taking time to consult with our military on the possible threats to the nation and the configuration of our forces that is necessary to counter them. It is one thing to have an overseas power projection capability, but it is of little use unless we can secure the homeland from threats to cut off our food supply, underwater energy interconnectors, internet infrastructure etc. We already know that the MoD has financial problems; one hopes that a modest increase in budget will be made available, coupled with stringent oversight of expenditure.

    The Russians are sending a message to us in the West with their Vostok 2018 excercise. Clearly, they see their major military threat to be in the east – China – not Nato. Much as the hawks in the US administration would like to expand Nato east, we should send a signal back. Don’t forget, Putin suggested to Bill Clinton in 2000 that Russia join Nato.

  14. Bob
    September 11, 2018

    On BBC Politics Live Lord Mandelson says Brussels

    “don’t want to see Boris Johnson taking over “


    “the negotiation as we’ve seen has been very much on the EU’s terms”

    nuff said.

  15. Newmania
    September 11, 2018

    Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo , of course by a British lead allied force and a Prussian force. I dread to think what the Iron Duke would have thought of a lot of tin pot Nationalists deliberately isolating us from our European allies on the basis of a spasm of mob foolishness.
    His reaction would probably be unprintable
    My comments are also, it would appear, unprintable , unless they omit information entirely.

    1. Man of Kent
      September 11, 2018

      Please do not forget that Wellington was requested by the allies at the Congress of Vienna to take charge of the Anglo-Dutch-Belgian -Hanoverian army .
      He had little time to organise his disparate forces and liaise with the Germans .
      And that 100,000 Russians were on the move but not due to arrive for another two months .

      A very different situation to that now facing us – being placed under command of a German/EU politically directed Force with Napoleonic aims of a united Europe under German control.

      Even in 1815 there were many ‘bien pensants ‘ in London and Parliament who were quietly and often vociferously willing on Napoleon .
      As one Lady said to another when the Waterloo news arrived ‘ Dreadful news my dear . We have won a famous victory ‘

      It was this support that led Government to deny Napoleon his request for asylum in England and his incarceration in St Helena .

    2. Richard1
      September 11, 2018

      There is no evidence the iron duke favoured a political union with Prussia or any other country.

    3. Edward2
      September 11, 2018

      Who wants to “deliberately isolate ourselves from Europe” ?
      Repeatedly Newmania you confuse the political construct that is the EU with Europe.

    4. margaret howard
      September 11, 2018


      “My comments are also, it would appear, unprintable , unless they omit information entirely”

      Many of mine suffer the same fate. It seems to be the new interpretation of democracy that only one opinion is permitted. Just like the old Soviet Union.

      1. Edward2
        September 11, 2018

        Bit harsh on the new Labour party Margaret.

    5. libertarian
      September 11, 2018


      Er you do know that Napoleon and his army were our European friends from France right?

      You actually think Wellington, an 18th century General and Prime Minister would be upset that we didn’t form a subjugated alliance with other European countries? You actually think that. No wonder you can’t find the words

      You might want to read up on the “Balancers” after the defeat of Napoleon, Wellington broke up separate bits of Europe into new states and “appointed” monarchs . PvL has the Iron Duke to thank for modern day Holland

      1. margaret howard
        September 13, 2018

        ” Wellington, an 18th century General and Prime Minister”

        19th century actually.

    6. S J Matthews
      September 11, 2018

      ‘tin pot Nationalists deliberately isolating us from our European allies on the basis of a spasm of mob foolishness.’

      You think we are leaving NATO? You seem deeply confused.

    7. Peter D Gardner
      September 11, 2018

      Newmania, you are completely wrong. There were several coalitions against Napoleon. WWI was won by a coalition of independent sovereign nation states. WW2 likewise. Subsequently coalitions have become quite normal ways of operating. Such co-operation is enabled greatly by NATO which alone, provides the means of inter-operability of equipment, procedures, tactics and so on, whether or not an operation is conducted under NATO control. NATO is not a political union. The EU is. Individual members of the EU have until now been free to act separately from the EU to form coalitions with either other member states or with non-member states. This is changing because the EU is increasingly coercing its members into single entity, both politically and militarily – a very dangerous trend.
      Political union is entirely unnecessary for military coalitions and joint operations and when done under an anti-democratic regime like the EU it is a threat to world peace.

  16. Alan Bell
    September 11, 2018

    I note with interest your comment in the commons debate yesterday “I do not remember when we joined the European Union being given a big pot of money to reflect all the liabilities we inherited” in relation to pension liabilities and your desire to welch on the commitments made.

    You may not remember it, but if you look in our 1972 accession agreement at article 130 you will find this:

    The Communities’ own resources and also the financial contributions and, where appropriate, the contributions referred to in Article 4(2), ( 3 ) and (4) of the Decision of 21 April 1970 shall be due from the new Member States to the following extent only :

    45.0% in 1973
    56.0% in 1974
    67.5% in 1975
    79.5% in 1976
    92.0% in 1977.

    That was our financial on-ramp. If we have an off-ramp with the same percentages reducing year on year and applied to todays contributions, then we get a 6 year disconnection that works out to about £44.5bn in total as we wind down our relationship. In this light I am sure you will appreciate that the bill for settling our obligations is in the right ball park.

    Reply Different issue to long term pension liabilities.

    1. mancunius
      September 11, 2018

      AB, I’m afraid your logic is skewed. We joined the EEC in 1973 so we were already paying contirubtions for ongoing liabilities offset by the benefits of membership. The payments were stepped because the advantages were also stepped.

      When we leave we shall have no such advantages of membership, no rebates, no regional payments etc, so any payment at all after leaving is somewhere between disputable and ridiculous. As the House of Lords has already adjudged.

  17. Tabulazero
    September 11, 2018

    The ERG is not even able to come up with an alternative plan to Chequers. What credibility does it have now ?

    Total and utter buffoonery from the leading lights of vote Leave.

    1. L Jones
      September 11, 2018

      Alternative plan – leave as per Article 50. Our own constitutional requirements – WTO rules. Sorted.

      Buffoonery? A bit like voting for the EU status quo in 2016. That sort of buffoonery, do you mean?

    2. mancunius
      September 11, 2018

      There is no indication so far that they ‘cannot’ do so. It seems more likely that they have merely ‘reconsidered’ the plan to publish it, as JRM said.
      I can well understand why. As we all learnt during the run-up to the referendum the world is full of Treasury civil servants, US democrat ex-presidents, international quango-merchants, central bankers, German CEOs and Bilderbergers, all eager to pour false statistics over any sensible and reasoned opinion.
      Timing is all.

  18. stred
    September 11, 2018

    The UK has no defence against a well armed enemy if it went to war. We depend on imports of gas by tanker and pipeline. We have undersea cables carrying vital information. We import nuclear power from France and from windfarms by cable. These could be destroyed by submarine drones. Nuclear power stations are on our coast. We have no fracking and coal is closed down. Tankers carrying LPG and petrol are giant bombs and an easy target. Offshore wind farms are also an easy target. Satellites can be jammed or zapped. Banks can be hacked. Then there is food. We import half of it.

    Perhaps we could copy the Swiss and train a huge territorial army and give them guns to take home. But they have referenda and a real democracy and we don’t at the moment. Deep State would not be able to risk the popuation having guns. Anyway, parts of the UK have become tribal and we would probably use them in local turf wars and for crime.

    So we are down to having forces to help the UN or EU when the security council meets and decides. But half of these UN countries such as the EU are likely to have few forces of their own and they will commit British soldiers to be killed, knowing that they don’t have many of their own. And the other members will be on the other side, with very large forces and things like hypersonic missiles.

    It would be much safer to offer the UK as a US base and firm alliance and let them lend us some planes and use our largely empty carriers. At least Trident would prevent an enemy from using nukes to clear the UK and then invade. And we also have Frank Spencer to tell them to gor away and shoot oop.

    1. Mitchel
      September 11, 2018

      It would be much safer not to pimp out our armed forces in the interests of foreign capital.

    2. rick hamilton
      September 12, 2018

      Indeed. Our political class has stood idly by for decades – or actively intervened to make things worse – while our once world-leading aerospace industry has been destroyed and the remains sold off to foreign ownership, followed by our nuclear power industry and then by huge swathes of other large-scale manufacturing businesses.

      The loss of technical experience, intellectual property and sheer brainpower, not to mention thousands of jobs and the pride of those who held them, is incalculable which is why pols never want to talk about it.

      Thus we are dependent on foreign owned industries to provide equipment for our armed forces, police, fire services, railways etc. In the event of a conflict there is no need for invasions, we can be brought to our knees by economic sanctions, or just ending supplies of spare parts.

      etc ed

  19. stred
    September 11, 2018

    2nd is corrected

  20. John Plumb
    September 11, 2018

    I agree wholeheartedly agree with the concerns expressed by Duncan. However, we must not forget that, when Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Hammond achieved with the stroke of a pen something that neither Napoleon or the Wermacht could – he destroyed 20% of the British Army. Such shortsightedness by a politician that is only ever in th post for a limited time is at best reprehensible.

  21. ChrisS
    September 11, 2018

    The first tasks in rebuilding our defences are :

    1. To restore the number of Destroyers, frigates and submarines to a credible number.

    Even with two brand new Aircraft carriers, we would still not be able to retake the Falklands or mount any independent offensive operation. This is because we don’t have enough other ships and submarines to mount an effective screen to defend one carrier let alone two. We have so few offensive Naval assets that our aircraft carriers we would always have to borrow NATO assets to mount any overseas cruise.

    If no NATO ally would be prepared to contribute to that defensive scree, we would not be able to mount a task force. Our experience from 1982 taught us one thing : in all circumstances, you need the ability to act alone.

    2. Acquire more Maritime Reconnaissance assets.

    Defence of UK waters is desperately thin. Thanks to David Cameron, we have had no maritime patrol aircraft since 2010 and recently have had to borrow up to 17 maritime patrol aircraft from NATO allies to effectively counter increased Russian activity around our Northern waters. These have all been based at RAF Lossiemouth and give an indication of the number of aircraft we need to patrol just the Northern approaches.

    A former commander of Maritime Defence assets at Lossiemouth told me four years ago that we need an absolute minimum of thirty maritime patrol aircraft to defend the UK. France has 35 such aircraft.

    We have just nine US P8 aircraft on order but they will not start patrolling until 2020 !
    Some of the slack could be taken up with much more UAVs (drones) but they

    3. Abandon the failed policy of cutting back the army and relying on a much larger reserve

    The policy has singularly failed. As a result, we have neither enough regular troops or reservists.

  22. Andy
    September 11, 2018

    A plus point of Brexit is that we will neither be able to afford a proper military nor will we need one. Nobody feels threatened by an irrelevant little island. Might as well attack Madagascar.

    Incidentally, where is the ERG Brexit plan. Much fanfare accompanied its planned launch – and now it is not happening. Could it be that they don’t have a plan?

    1. Richard1
      September 11, 2018

      We might need one to defend us from the proposed EU border force of 10k which will apparently be allowed top operate in member states – and neighbouring ones?

    2. Dennis
      September 11, 2018

      Andy – ” Nobody feels threatened by an irrelevant little island. Might as well attack Madagascar.”
      This is a good point. Costa Rica doesn’t go about making enemies so needs no military at all.

    3. Edward2
      September 11, 2018

      So the sixth biggest economy on earth, with one of the world’s most greatly respected armed forces is, you think, “an irrelelevant little island”
      You do come out with some hilarious twaddle Andy.

      1. margaret howard
        September 12, 2018


        Seventh biggest economy now. Pre Brexit it was the 5th. Downhill all the way now.

        1. Edward2
          September 13, 2018

          Wow what a decline.
          Grasping at straws comes to mind.
          Have you compared Project Fear Mark One, to our exce
          Lent economic performances recently ?

      2. Puffer Fish
        September 14, 2018

        Edward2, you would make better points if you were reading how Britain is now perceived in the rest of the world. And I don’t talk about EU27, but the countries of the Anglo-sphere. Guys like you seem to have a near zero knowledge of how people over there now look at Britain. Try it, after all most of it is in English, no need to tire your little head with any foreign language.

  23. JimS
    September 11, 2018

    Do we need any armed forces?
    Our government has been handed over to a foreign power and we are being invaded daily by an army of occupation in waiting.
    What is left of UK government sees the ‘home guard’ as the real enemy.
    The UK will never be able to raise a citizen army in future because no-one fights for a branch of a hotel chain.
    A government that ignores the will of the people cannot expect the people to freely follow the will of the government.

  24. Denis Cooper
    September 11, 2018

    Reading this headline:

    “Operation Save Theresa: EU leaders rally round PM”

    I suppose we should be grateful that we have not yet got to the point where they are either sending across their state troops to the defence of the local EU governor or calling out the units of the eurofederal armed forces based in this country.

    Not that anything like that could ever happen, of course, we have assurances on that from trusted figures such as John Major and William Hague and David Cameron.

    At least the Independent has grasped that while Theresa May is our Prime Minister she is the EU’s woman.

    1. margaret howard
      September 11, 2018

      “I suppose we should be grateful that we have not yet got to the point where they are either sending across their state troops to the defence of the local EU governor or calling out the units of the eurofederal armed forces based in this country”

      Maybe they should do what we did in the past and send in a gunboat or two to keep the natives in check?

      1. Denis Cooper
        September 12, 2018

        You’d like that, wouldn’t you.

    2. Steve
      September 11, 2018

      Denis Cooper

      Yes I heard the very same, and was shocked.

      Obviously then we were right to label Theresa May a quisling, now Mr Barnier has kindly confirmed it for us.

      The EU interferes to keep the current PM in position because it’s in their interest. Who the hell do these people think they are?

      No one should be dismissing this as anything less than a coup without a shot being fired. It’s disgraceful.

  25. BOF
    September 11, 2018

    Our Prime Minister has been signing up our armed forces to significant co-operation with the new EU army. Should they be put in a position where they are under the control of the EU would that not be a very dangerous situation to be in? Possibly giving the EU precedence over our commitment to NATO.

    Where has the debate been in Parliament on this?

    Corbyn, of course, would soon scrap our nuclear deterrent and in line with other marxist run countries they would soon find themselves controlling dissidents within our borders!

    1. Bob
      September 11, 2018


      “Our Prime Minister has been signing up our armed forces to significant co-operation with the new EU army.”

      Is that the EU army that Nick Clegg dismissed as a “dangerous fantasy” ?

    2. Peter D Gardner
      September 11, 2018

      I understand a debate in parliament would be constitutionally correct but since so few in parliament have the faintest clue about strategic matters and would argue in favour or against the EU on the basis of other irrelevant issues, it would most likely lead to the wrong conclusion.

  26. bigneil
    September 11, 2018

    I always thought the UK’s defence was against being invaded. As our govt and the EU are working together to actually force an African/Asian invasion on us, and make us pay for the lives of those invaders, then I only see the Forces now as a bluff and a complete waste of taxpayers money. How long till May hands over our new VTOL fighters for Merkel to use?

    1. Peter Wood
      September 11, 2018

      Ah, I think you are on the right line.
      Look at the last 50 years, fighting, in the historical definition, is a waste of assets. In the 21st century it is economic warfare that makes sense. Look at what the US has done/is doing through economic sanctions. And for Europe, look how Germany, through funding of the EU from its economic prowess, has effective political control of Europe. An objective now achieved, having failed twice with bullets.

      1. margaret howard
        September 12, 2018


        ” An objective now achieved, having failed twice with bullets”

        You seem to forget that we declared war on Germany in both 1914 and again in 1939.

        And they managed quite well during their Holy Roman Empire beginning with the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 AD and lasting until 1806.

        1. Edward2
          September 13, 2018

          You need a new history book Margaret.

        2. Mitchel
          September 14, 2018

          Managed quite well?Does that include the Thirty years War?!

          Frederick Barbarossa was the first Holy Roman Emperor.Charlemagne is claimed by both France and Germany.

    2. British Spy
      September 11, 2018

      I’m still suspicious of Merkel. She’s just…..err…

  27. Denis Cooper
    September 11, 2018

    Off-topic, so at 10 o’clock last night Jacob Rees-Mogg was set to publish an alternative to the Chequers plan, which he thought might marginally boost our economy:

    “Jacob Rees-Mogg: No-deal Brexit will boost UK economy by £1.1 trillion over 15 years”

    (Given that UK GDP is around £2 trillion a year I assume that the £1.1 trillion boost would be a cumulative gain, not an annual gain, and roughly allowing for natural growth at the long term trend rate of 2.5% a year over the 15 years the cumulative GDP would be about £37 trillion, hence his putative £1.1 trillion extra would be a gain of about 3%; looked at another way, it would be like squeezing out an extra 0.2% growth each year.)

    But by 10 o’clock this morning he has abandoned that idea:

    “Jacob Rees-Mogg DITCHES alternative plan to scupper Chequers in shock U-turn”

    “But Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, head of the pro-Brexit European Research Group which led the work on the alternative plan, said the full document would not be published. He told the FT: “The truth is that we reconsidered.””

    The truth is that he and his like-minded colleagues should never have allowed themselves to be trapped into a commitment that they would produce a comprehensive and detailed plan when Theresa May has thousands of civil servants working on her plan, the problem with it being in the fundamental flaws rather than matters of detail.

    1. Tabulazero
      September 11, 2018

      I guess it was too much to ask from the leading lights of the ERG to actually tell the people how they intend to tackle Brexit since they do not like the version Theresa May is delivering.

      Yet they failed to even agree among themselves what a post-Brexit UK should look like and how it should articulate its relationship to its main trading partner the EU.

      So the ERG has reverted to the only thing it knows: taking pot shots from the side and acting like some kind of deranged cult.

      A complete and utter buffoonery but that was to be expected when you sell a pipe dream to the public and are actually called upon to deliver it.

      Reply Untrue. The ERG has published and set out great detail on Brexit, and will produce more detail in the weeks ahead. Watch today on the Irish border issue.

    2. Peter
      September 11, 2018


      Sorry I see nothing about a ‘U-turn’ there. He announces a ‘Brexiteers handbook’. The battle continues.

      Beware sensational headlines.

    3. The Prangwizard
      September 11, 2018

      Is this the comprehensive document you said the other day Mr Redwood, in answer to an enquiry here, had been written and would be published soon?

      1. Norfolk Tory
        September 12, 2018

        I fully agree. Another broken promise, Mr Redwood? I do not consider the case for leaving the EU has a shred of credibility after this latest failure to front up and offer a plan

        1. Denis Cooper
          September 12, 2018

          The plan is that we leave the EU, as decided in June 2016.

    4. Norman
      September 11, 2018

      Sounds as if there have been developments behind the scenes. With the CPC in less than 3 weeks, timing is everything. Or was it just that the sums didn’t add up? Let’s wait and see.

    5. Pargitter
      September 11, 2018

      I do not get it. It is over 2 years since we voted for Brexit. In some cases, eg J Redwood, it is 20 years of complaining about the EU. And yet it seems there is no viable plan to achieve Brexit. We were promised a 140 page document, but all we get is a press conference criticising Chequers – with no attempt to offer an alternative. I voted Leave. I believe I was cheated.

      1. mancunius
        September 11, 2018

        You mean, you voted Leave without having reasons to do so?
        That was foolish of you, but nothing to do with those of us who do know very definitely why we want to leave the EU.

    6. Denis Cooper
      September 11, 2018

      But Professor Patrick Minford has produced an article which may suffice:

      “Why a World Trade Deal – Brexit on WTO terms – would be highly advantageous”

      Well, I’m inclined to think that he is over-optimistic, but not as over-optimistic as the covert eurofederalist Chancellor Philip Hammond and his highly politicised Treasury economic modellers are over-pessimistic, so when he says that a Canada plus trade deal would be worth an extra 7% on GDP:

      “… 4% from achieving free trade around the world, 2% from setting our own regulations and the rest from controlling unskilled immigration and eliminating our EU budget contribution … ”

      and moreover we could get more or less the same benefits just from defaulting to the terms of the existing WTO treaties, without any special or preferential trade deal with the EU, then that is close to a mirror image of the 8% loss of GDP that the Treasury predicts for that scenario, I would rate the Minford forecast as twice as credible as the Hammond forecast and guess that in the long term we might be better off by about 2% of GDP, a marginal rather than exciting gain.

      1. Tabulazero
        September 12, 2018

        Let’s review Prof Minford assumption if you will.

        He predicts a 4% boost to GDP assuming that the UK abolish tariffs unilaterally which a) would be a death sentence for many farmers and SMEs and b) would leave the UK with nothing to barter when it comes to renegotiating FTAs at the WTO. Which tariff will you lower in return for market access if your tariff are already at zero ?

        Furthermore, Prof Minford’s model makes no allowance for differences in quality and safety of imported goods, nor does it make any allowance for distance-related transport costs. It assumes that all standards imposed on imported goods will be abolished.

        Yet his model still assumes that the UK can continue to trade with the EU on roughly the same terms despite the UK having abolished all standards… which is likely to make many UK products unfit to export to the EU.

        He assumes that there are no additional non-tariff barriers to trade between the UK and the EU in a no deal scenario, which is frankly not plausible.

        And to cap it all, he assumes that an equivalence arrangement gets somehow signed for the benefit of the City despite the EU having repeatedly said that equivalence was not on the table.

        Even if you are a hardcore supporter of Brexit, you must admit Denis, that such assumptions are very very optimistic. I really do not have the feeling that the EU is about to cave in to every single British demand. Do you ?

  28. Peter
    September 11, 2018

    Peter Kennedy’s excellent book ‘The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers’ makes a case for ‘military overstretch’ as a major element in the decline phase.

    The UK has had to rein in spend on forces around the globe. USA is now beginning to feel the pinch too. Hence Trumps complaints about lack of European spend on defence while USA bears a great cost.

    New aircraft carriers with no planes does not seem to make a great deal of sense. More spend should be allocated to fighting wars against terrorist organisations rather than countries.

  29. margaret
    September 11, 2018

    I cannot believe that our Army and defence do not have a strategy either from ‘the abroad’ or acts of war classed as terrorism on our own soil .Whether that is sufficient enough is not for us to know , however should these defence mechanisms be publically known ?

  30. mancunius
    September 11, 2018

    An historical footnote: you are right to describe William and Mary as ‘an invasion’. Parliament deposed James II in 1688 because of the purported danger of his subverting the Constitution because his (Catholic) religion would (said Parliament) leave Britain open to the control by foreign powers (e.g. France). They cheerfully ignored the fact that James’s predecessor Charles II had already secretly compacted with France since the 1660 Restoration, and that the Netherlands was, too, a foreign power – one that had already attempted several times to invade Britain. But it was now invited in as Mary had a tenuous succession right, and her husband the Dutch king had the ‘right’ religion and therefore was the ‘right kind of foreign.’ A whole PR narrative was subsequently created to justify this unconstitutional and frankly treasonous breach.
    Sometimes Parliament acts irrationally and undemocratically. We do well to bear that in mind.

  31. Bob
    September 11, 2018

    So Philip Hammond has extended Mark Carney’s contract to Jan. 2020.

    1. Tabulazero
      September 11, 2018

      Because the Pound does not like it when the adults leave the room.

      1. NickC
        September 12, 2018

        Only children need Nanny EU’s hand to guide them.

        1. Tabulazero
          September 13, 2018

          Nanny EU is sadly busy explaining to little UK that no you cannot have your cake and eat it no matter what the tantrum you are throwing.

          … shhhh!… Behave.

    2. Prigger
      September 11, 2018

      I heard.It was LIVE and I wished I had seen a recording of the news and someone gently had put it to me in advance so I could prepare myself for a trauma…
      Will this never end????? Still here!

    3. Geoff not Hoon
      September 11, 2018

      Why you say. because no one else has the brains to do what he does namely and with Hammond’s approval of course, 1)print money 2)change interest rates. Every other single thing he is involved with is just talk and in his case on a grand scale due to his superior banking background.

    4. Adam
      September 11, 2018

      A mutual interest in an attempt to extend Project Fear nonsense.

  32. Edwardm
    September 11, 2018

    We need a well equipped armed forces able to engage in many different scenarios. This demands dedication and loyalty from the forces personnel, and which requires similar loyalty from our politicians and country in return.
    We must stop the merging of our armed forces with France and the EU.
    Our soldiers and seamen must act under British commanders under the British flag.
    We need to have a reliable supply chain. In other words we should only purchase critical parts from reliable countries (like the USA or Australia) otherwise retain manufacturing capability within the UK.

    1. L Jones
      September 11, 2018

      Well said, Edwardm. A voice of reason, plain and simple.

      (See Andy’s post above. Methinks he doesn’t quite get it.)

    2. acorn
      September 12, 2018

      So are you saying forget NATO then?

      1. Edwardm
        September 12, 2018


  33. ale bro
    September 11, 2018

    What is the point of this conversation?

    I thought that Williamson had solved all of the military issues by suggesting adding cannons to tractors?

    Or is defence really a lot more complicated than the defence secretary is saying?

  34. Peter D Gardner
    September 11, 2018

    What about UK’s responsibilities for policing its EEZ? UK has never had these responsibilities before. The Cod War and the French ‘scallop wars’ incident show that use of physical force is to be expected. As far as I can tell the Government has no plans whatsoever to extend UK’s maritime capabilities to meet this new requirement. Modern sophisticated yet thin hulled warships are far too vulnerable and expensive fo the task. Apart from ramming, they can be immobilised simply by fouling their propellers with ropes and fishing nets. And they are not fast enough to outrun fast fishing vessels. UK lacks maritime air capability, bearing in mind the continuous nature of the requirement and ongoing commitments to NATO, the EU and out of area operations.
    The UK Government so far has shown zero interest in the potential afforded it by the UNCLOS and no inclination to take up its mandated responsibilities. Mrs May’s government is not just a joke. It is a danger to UK’s future.

  35. Ian wragg
    September 11, 2018

    I see arch Europhile Haigh writing in todaysTelegraph that if the Withdrawal Agreement and gets voted down there will be a massive constitutional crisis and there is no majority for no deal.
    There won’t be any vote on no deal as this will happen automatically. Its not no deal it’s WTO deal.

    1. mancunius
      September 13, 2018

      It is extraordinary how many remainers do not grasp that very simple point.
      I suppose they hope and assume that if a no deal loomed, May would make a phone call to Juncker asking for an Art. 50 extension.

  36. Chrisf
    September 11, 2018

    Slightly on/off topic, but relevant in the wider context of what has been going on recently:

    Turns out that the ‘Banks’ aren’t that ‘bovvered’ after all….

  37. Rien Huizer
    September 11, 2018

    Why no reference to NATO’s strategy. The UK’s principal role in world politics is as a member of NATO (surely a condition for the UK’s possession of an mainly “US” (the contrectors are US-owned, the missiles are UD made, the targeting system relies on US systems, etc) strategic weapons. Contrary to France, a nominally independent nuclear power, the UK has -probably- off the shelf, predominantly US originated weapons.Nothing wrong with that, but is shoul;d instill some modesty in UK politicians. Of course there are nuclear propelled submarines (the attack ones with US torpedos and cruise missiles) but that is not the symbol of independence that France has. And many believe that France’s effort is pointless, because it will not be able to use these weapons independently, any plausible opponent is also a US opponent and even a weak power like Russia could do far more harm to France than France could to to Russia, even if both aresenals equivalent. A UK deterrent is even more “pointless”, unless the US wishes to have a proxy power (like Cuba once was for the Soviet Union). Of course that would be a legitimate purpose. But in that case it should be made explicit to the UK electorate, rather that romantic nosense about defending the homeland. Small states cannot be defended indepenently in the modern world. All they can do by themselves, is to be unattractive and surely that is a price the lectorate would not like to pay.

    The UK is a complementary power to the US, like all European countries within the NATO alliance. In structuring long term defense plans and economic commitments to them, the UK should first select both the minimum effort to comply with NATO requirements adn the minimum effort to deal with things like border integrity, fishing, humanitarian tasks both at home en abroad. Second (nice to have but if expensive, to be treated with great care) : missions outside NATO (UN, EU, Commonwealth etc). Those should only be envisaged if there is a reasonably strong expectation that there will be strong (economic) gains resulting from such tasks. The UK should not act like a military benefactor. The winners will not be grateful and the losers may want a return match.

    Despite the status of nuclear and permanent security council member, the UK is not a superpower and should tailor defense effort (also relative to other important priorities like infrastructure, education and the growing burden of care inherent in an ageing (and democratic) society) parsimoniously.

    Defence and NHS are the two areas of UK government expenditure that deserve a very high degree of scrutiny in a utilitarian sense. I suspect that your suggestions would not fare well then.

  38. margaret howard
    September 11, 2018


    “Over the longer haul we have stood against any single dominant military power emerging on the continent, where such a dominant power proceeds by conquest and eclipses liberties and self determination for smaller countries”

    The Spanish dominated Europe for over two centuries from the 15th to the 17 centuries as did the French for another two hundred years after that. In both cases their dominance was brought to an end by a combination of European nations as in the War of the Spanish Succession and later Napoleon. For instance in the war against the Spanish the Dutch Republic provided three times the forces the English did.

    And Napoleon was brought down by a coalition of European countries. Even at Waterloo Wellington was about to surrender when Bluecher’s Prussians saved the day.

    1. Mitchel
      September 12, 2018

      And quite often we supplied the financial subsidy for the continentals to do the fighting.

      1. Puffer Fish
        September 14, 2018

        It is a well known fact that Britain was a nation of shop owners, so they had plenty of money to put in such adventures.

  39. Iago
    September 11, 2018

    We lack the armaments and soldiers, sea, land and air, to defend this country. What is infinitely worse is that we have a government that is unwilling to defend this country or recognise the threat that we face, a government that appears to be on the side of the enemy.

  40. calm
    September 11, 2018

    Too many words. Too many egos.
    The ordinary people here and across Europe know what’s going on.
    MPs have been slow to catch up.
    There is too much emphasis on saving the Conservatives.
    Accept that the Cons are dead ( me a life long Con )
    and work together towards saving Britain.

    1. Lindsay McDougall
      September 12, 2018

      To do that requires the creation of a Brexiteers Party to fight the next General Election. It must span the political spectrum and aim at gathering the votes of the 52% of people who voted Leave in the Referendum. Task 1 is to write a Brexiteers’ manifesto.

      1. calm
        September 15, 2018

        Haven’t y’all written it yet ?
        I might have to write it myself if you haven’t.

  41. Lindsay McDougall
    September 12, 2018

    Defending these islands is still the number one priority. If the European Union succeeds in evolving into a Federal European SuperState, dominated by Germany and with a military capability, we may end up having to defend ourselves against it.

  42. julian
    September 12, 2018

    Although this is a bit of a tangent it is relevant I think:
    Russia population 144m has 3200 aircraft in its air force while
    Germany population 82m has 467 aircraft.
    Germany needs to up its military spending to match its economy and central position in the EU.

  43. margaret howard
    September 12, 2018


    Saber rattling again? Until the 20th century Germany was the ONLY European country Britain had NEVER been at war with. We declared war on Germany both in 1914 and again in 1939.

    Last time it cost us the empire. What do you propose we can sacrifice this time?

  44. John Francis
    September 12, 2018

    Good points, but the WW2 BEF was not a small professional force.
    According to official figures The Navy rescued 558,032 people, (All evacuations) including 368,491 British Army troops but the BEF lost 66,426 men,11,014 killed or died of wounds, 14,074 wounded and 41,338 men missing or captured.
    Total BEF was 434,917 men, more than 5 times the current strength of Britain’s army.
    Total British Army in September 1939, 892,697 including part time Territorials (TA).
    Current Figures are:-
    Regular Army Volunteer Reserve Other Personnel Total
    84,270 29,900 4,410 118,580
    The Army is woefully short of manpower, along with the Navy and RAF.
    In the light of rapidly changing potential threats we urgently need a major policy and strategic review together with major investment in our armed services and their equipment especially missiles, both offensive and defensive.

    1. Puffer Fish
      September 14, 2018

      What about adding some scores of top computer engineers? They might be more useful than your tens/hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

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