What kind of defence policy do we want?

Under Labour and the Coalition the UK made frequent use of its defence capabilities in the Middle East, alongside Presidents Bush and Obama. In the last couple of years the UK has been rightly more cautious about using military force in tense and difficult civil wars, as has the USA.

There has been a general shift in western thinking away from sending in troops to police war torn territory on the ground. Instead smart western weaponry has been used in support of other local and regional forces attempting to influence the outcome of these conflicts. The West has used a variety of manned aircraft, smart bombs, missiles and drones to kill people on the ground and damage property in support of ground forces provided by others.

This development of western policy towards the Middle East is leading to new thoughts about what kind of forces the West will need in future, as the weapons designers and manufacturers are placing more emphasis on unmanned systems, remote control and robotics. I wish to explore how the UK can respond to these changes.

The first question to answer is what should be the UK’s policy aims.

First and foremost must be home defence. By a combination of our diplomacy, foreign policy and military deterrence we wish to keep our islands from military threat. We also need to make sure we have the force needed to defend ourselves in the unlikely event of a threat materialising.

Second comes our contribution to NATO. NATO remains the West’s prime mutual defence alliance. The UK wishes to contribute properly to this, and to benefit from the protection the offer of mutual support gives us.

Third, the capability to go to the aid of territories and countries within the UK family, as we had to for the Falklands in the 1980s.

Fourth should be the ability to join international coalitions of the willing in pursuit of UN aims. There will be times when the UK should join forces to resist an invader or to counter the illegal use of force somewhere in the world. As a member of the Security Council the UK has to be willing to contribute to missions where we have the resources and interest to do so.


  1. Atlantic Span
    December 14, 2017

    I think I’d have preferred your thoughts on last night’s debacle John.

    1. Hope
      December 14, 2017

      JR what military adventure did Cameron sign the country up to with France and does it still stand and how much will it cost? EU Rapid defence force in place what does this cost and will it apply when the U.K. Leaves?

      What does Odonis have to do to get sacked?

      1. Hope
        December 14, 2017

        Secure our borders should be the first aim, make us safe in our own country, properly check people in and out, travel ban like the US, do not engage in Middle East wars or any war unless there is a proven U.K. interest or noble cause not based on lies like Blaire or Cameron, stop unvetted mass immigration. Make sure whatever troops we have are properly equipped unlike a Iraq and Lybia.

        Military in the streets twice this year instead of police! Instead of giving billions away on overseas aid and EU for nothing how about our defense? Have as many strategies or policies as you like, if you have nothing to back it up save your breath.

    2. Mark Riley
      December 14, 2017

      I tried to make the same point albeit sarcastically (Oh look a Squirrel!) this morning but was removed. Too close to home?

      Reply No, I didn’t see the point of it. I have written today for tomorrow about the EU Bill. I did not have time after late votes last night to write about the Bill, and there was plenty of coverage elsewhere this morning. I will write about a future issue on the Bill for tomorrow. I am not trying to run a newspaper look a like.

      1. Mark Riley
        December 14, 2017

        A very fair explanation, thank you for taking the time.

  2. Ian Wragg
    December 14, 2017

    Under the Tories from 2010 the decimation of the armed forces has been a disgrace.
    We are no longer in a position to defend ourselves or our overseas territory.
    We are an island nation and have nothing more than a coastal defence force.
    Our military personnel are treated abominably with endless investigation into crimes allegedly committed in the heat of battle.
    Spineless politicians and grasping lawyers destroying people with the worst kind of virtue signalling.
    Is there any wonder no one wants to join up.

    1. Ian Wragg
      December 14, 2017

      So now we know the real enemies within. I hope that from today every single piece of EU legislation is debated and voted on.
      Any not passing muster should be binned………oh I forgot Parliamentary sovereignty doesn’t apply to all things emanating from Brussels.

    2. Iain Gill
      December 14, 2017


      other stuff too

      like its open knowledge that females being allowed to serve on submarines is a massive failure, and yet nobody is prepared to face up to the politically correct establishment and get things back to all male crews. a classic example of large costs, and much poorer outcomes, all at the altar of political correctness.

    3. Ed Mahony
      December 14, 2017

      With our depleted defence force, and with the UK more out on its own in Europe, Russia might well send more warships right down the English coast just to frighten and intimidate us. That’s what bullies do. No wonder their President was supporting Brexit. It’s much easier to control your enemies when they are split.

      Meanwhile we also have to deal with Islamic terrorism. As well as boatloads of refugees from Africa and the Middle East which the EU and the French, at Calais, will no longer feel so obliged to help us out with.

      Lastly, i don’t see how the border issue in N. Ireland is going to help maintain peace in that part of the world.

      1. Ed Mahony
        December 14, 2017

        ‘boatloads of refugees’ – i mean boatloads of people looking to live in the UK, not refugees.

      2. zorro
        December 14, 2017

        “Russia might well send more warships right down the English coast just to frighten and intimidate us..”

        Ed, don’t be daft. NATO is doing far more buzzing of Russian territory than they are of ours. Do you really think that the Russians are going to do that? And anyway why? We are NATO members and Russia has not and has no bellicose intentions towards us. I don’t remember Putin saying that he intended to expand the Russian Federation to the West coast of Scotland! Show me exactly where Putin supported Brexit in any of his speeches….

        The other issues you mention are a question of being willing to implement a strong, sovereign border control in the interest of the nation. I will let you pass comment on Tory efforts there!!


        1. stred
          December 15, 2017

          It is reported that Russia has been rumbled spending 79p on Facebook ant-Leave propaganda. They really must up their game. I read that when Yeltsin was around. the Russians proposed joining up with NATO, but they were rebuffed. We might have bought cheap military hardware from them.

        2. Ed Mahony
          December 15, 2017


          I think Russia and Northern Ireland are concerns but don’t won’t to over do it.
          More concerning is how we’re going to stop boatloads of immigrants from Africa, Middle East and Asia without the EU’s / France’s full support.
          My main concern is what we’re going to do to keep Europe’s economy growing, spreading wealth and economic stability across the continent. This provides us for a greater marker closer to home. And improved prosperity decreases the chances of war and conflict in Europe like what we experienced in WW1. WW2, Norther Ireland, and all the other 20th century conflicts across Europe.
          Hard Brexiters are very quiet on this. And it’s completely complacency to think serious war and conflict couldn’t harm us again in the future. Just look at colourful, peaceful, prosperous Edwardian England, and the century that was to follow.

          1. Ed Mahony
            December 15, 2017

            And don’t forget how people thought Churchill was fairly crazy and a pain-in-the-ass about going on about the threat of war during the 1930’s. Churchill was, of course, completely right. The majority of people in Parliament and the country completely wrong / complacent. We slept-walked into war, because there was a lack of geopolitical political wisdom / awareness at the time.

          2. Ed Mahony
            December 15, 2017

            And just as Parliament was monumentally wrong about war in the 1930’s, so Parliament was monumentally wrong about war with Iraq, most voting to support Blair.

            I strongly believe in the notion of preparing and going to war when right (the just war). Churchill was completely right during the 1930’s (most of Parliament completely wrong).

            But then there is the bad war. The Iraq War. I couldn’t believe, at the time, how wrong Parliament were in supporting Blair.

            Thinking about war and conflict is central to politics. But how often politicians get it completely wrong. And / or just have a total lack of geopolitical wisdom / awareness. I’m concerned about the complete lack of interest in European geopolitics in this area by Brexiters, either disinterested or just afraid to go down a dark area of British life that could have profound affects down the future if we get wrong.

          3. rose
            December 15, 2017

            Niall Ferguson thinks we are making a serious miscalculation over the danger of Islamic imperialism just as we did over communism in 1917.

      3. Mitchel
        December 15, 2017

        If you see a large shiny Russian ship approaching the UK in the next week or so,don’t dive under your bed,it’s the first shipment of LNG from the new Yamal gas field officially opened by Mr Putin this week- and diverted from Asia- out of the goodness of his heart.(Either that or we are paying through the nose for it ,given our current supply problems).

        1. rose
          December 15, 2017

          Do you remenber all those years under Blair and Brown when they wouldn’t do anything about a whole lot of things that needed urgent attention (transport, housing, defence, food security, etc. ) and one of them was energy?

      4. APL
        December 16, 2017

        Ed Mahony: “Russia might well send more warships right down the English coast just to frighten and intimidate us. ”

        We’re at peace with Russia.

        The English channel is an international shipping lane. How does a ship navigating in international waters in peace time intimidate us?

        Michel: “it’s the first shipment of LNG from the new Yamal gas field officially opened by Mr Putin this week- and diverted from Asia- out of the goodness of his heart.”

        Not to mention Britain wants to impose trade sanctions against Russia because of unsubstantiated claims it interfered in the US elections.

        Now our government looks a right idiot, going cap in hand to Russia after empty posturing by the Tory government.

        And it’s because our own energy policy is such a shambles because Cameron didn’t put it right, rather, he installed a wind turbine on his house, and sold the rights to wind-farms subsidies to his chums.

        Now we’ve got no wind and no wind generated energy at the coldest time of the year.


  3. Nig l
    December 14, 2017

    One day we will finally understand we cannot ‘win’ where the conflict is tribal or religious and certainly not culture change to ‘western values’

    An honest appraisal might indicate we have made our own security worse not better by our interventions.

    Diplomacy , yes. The worlds policeman, no

  4. Bob
    December 14, 2017

    If Parliament succeeds with it’s strategy to subvert Brexit, defence policy will be decided by Brussels.

    1. Chris
      December 14, 2017

      We have already signed up to a very considerable defence commitment with Brussels in the last couple of years. Done very deceitfully, in my mind, by this Cons government.

      1. Bob
        December 14, 2017

        Is that why the Tories are slashing the defence budget?
        Maybe they intend to use UK defence cutbacks to sponsor a Euro Army, over which the UK has little or no control?

        The British voters need to wake up to this treachery before it’s too late!

        1. Chris
          December 15, 2017

          I believe that is precisely what is happening, Bob.

  5. am
    December 14, 2017

    A policy detached from the eu is most necessary. Tusk et al will break the peace in Europe by picking a war with Russia and then come crying to the UK and USA when the Russian winter comes.

  6. Mark B
    December 14, 2017

    Good morning

    Before we know what defence we might want we need to establish what our foreign policy aims are ? Our kind host has set out the general areas, NATO, UN and our territorial interests, but we must limit ourselves to these. There can be no involvement in an EU Army or ‘Peace keeping force.’ The UK and the USA already subsidise the other European countries and I see no reason why we should keep doing so when they themselves wish to create their own forces.

  7. Peter
    December 14, 2017

    The threat to the UK these days is not from a conventional army. A lot could be gained from a more ruthless approach to the threat within.

    1. SOS
      December 14, 2017

      The threat within is greatly exaggerated.

      1. Peter
        December 15, 2017

        You can take the sanguine approach that terror is “part and parcel of living in a big city” like the London mayor.

        The ordinary citizen wants something done.

        Three thousand suspects are at liberty in the UK. There was internment for the paramilitaries in Northern Ireland who were far less fanatical and were open to dialogue.

  8. alan jutson
    December 14, 2017

    Surely you mean our attack capability has been used in the Middle East in the past decade.

    You do not need an aircraft carrier’s to defend the Country, as you should have many land air bases, which are not at risk of being sunk, although not enough aircraft to properly defend us from them either.
    Pray tell me why we are even thinking of cutting our armed forces further, given the delicate state the World is in at the moment..

    Just four Fishery protection vessels to protect our waters and thousands of miles of coastline from foreign fishing boats and illegal immigrants.?
    Would have thought we would have needed at least 10 times as many given we have now abandoned coastal viewpoints in favour of so called electronic surveilance.

    1. Bob
      December 14, 2017


      The foreign aid budget could be utilised to rebuilding the armed services so they may be deployed around the globe to deal with any humanitarian crisis or security threat.

  9. Caterpillar
    December 14, 2017

    1.more capable and more independent nuclear deterrent, with more than one launch platform active.
    2. Fully resourced aircraft carriers.
    3. Ability to land and take.
    4. Stop over specifying kit, ability to accumulate resource rather than continually replace/scrap/sell
    5. Ability to monitor and defend airspace (don’t rely on only standoff fighters, there will be a continuing need to get close and look when being probed, and waters.
    6. Reliable and defendable energy and food supply chains.
    7. Good relationship with USA irrespective of media views on POTUS.

  10. Bert Young
    December 14, 2017

    John I agree with the priorities you have outlined for our Armed Forces ; the only snag is do we have enough of them with the facilities to do the job properly ?. Hammond has clashed with the new Defence Minister making it clear that his budget is not elastic enough to include a wider defence brief . I deplore the position Hammond has taken and I take it as further evidence that he must be replaced . Also keeping Russia out in the cold is the wrong move ; Putin is a problem – just like Trump is , but it does not alter the fact that a closer relationship with Russia would have many benefits .

    1. Mitchel
      December 14, 2017

      A central tenet of the Kissinger doctrine was that the US should be closer to China and Russia than they are to each other;I think Trump (probably via Steve Bannon) appreciates this but the neo-con infested defence establishment thought that after the end of the Soviet Union they would launch their own “march on Moscow” -which has been replulsed;we wait to see just how costly the retreat will be.

      I don’t believe the Russians were ever a military threat to western Europe.From Enoch Powell’s Hague speech,May 1971:-

      “The prospect of a Russian conquest of western Europe is one for which history affords no material.The theory that the Russians have not advanced from the Elbe to the Atlantic because of the nuclear derrent is not more convincing than the theory than the theory that they have not done so because they do not want to do so and have never envisaged,unless perhaps in terms of world revolution,a Russian hegemony in western Europe.”

      But the military industrial complex must be fed-“anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy”(George F Keenan,architect of the US policy of Soviet containment after WWII).

  11. Abendrot
    December 14, 2017

    Well, JR, when I was in the Army, we had 250,000 soldiers and could, with reasonable confidence, defend a significant front across Western Europe. Today, thanks to the policies of successive Governments, we could only conceive of a piddling contribution to such a front. Although one should be grateful that you are at least airing the subject of Defence, you should be ashamed of your Party’s recent performance and aspirations in this direction. We hear rumours, from spreadsheet Phil, of an Army of 50,000; that will have our potential enemies shaking in their boots. Moreover, extended periods of overstretch lead to damaging limitations in training, the single most important activity after actual combat. Consequently, we have an Army, of which I was once proud, that is at least ten years out of date. Every generation seems to go through the implicit errors associated with the Kipling poem..’It’s Tommy this and Tommy that and Tommy go away….but when the cannons begin to roar etc..’. In answer to one of your points, you do realise, JR, that we couldn’t mount a Falklands operation today? An unfortunate example if I may say so.

    1. eeyore
      December 14, 2017

      ‘Twas ever thus. Readers will remember Bismarck’s comment when asked what he would do if the British army invaded Germany: “I’d send a policeman to arrest it.”

    2. APL
      December 16, 2017

      Abendrot: “we couldn’t mount a Falklands operation today?”

      But but, we’ve just commissioned a brand spanking new Aircraft carrier!

      You’re not suggesting it’s a white elephant?

  12. agricola
    December 14, 2017

    Yes a defence policy commensurate with the ever evolving threat to the home islands. This should be on a rolling assessment as technology is on an accelerating curve.

    Yes to NATO, but as most EU members fail to contribute their dues at a level in excess of £350 Billion at present, I would advocate the contraction of NATO.

    Number three for sure, but number four with the greatest caution and only if our interests are involved. For the latter we need not just a carrier but the support group to ensure it’s security. I would add that fisheries protection and border defence need to be adequately funded as they patently are not at present.

    I do not know under what guise MI5 get their funding but it needs to be adequate. The sensible way to keep their budget at a reasonable level would be to deport the apocryphal 3000 would be jihadists roaming our streets with impunity.

  13. Duncan
    December 14, 2017

    This government doesn’t deserve our brave forces. The Marxists on the other side also hold our forces in absolute contempt and will no doubt target their capacity should they ever get into power

    We have a PM more concerned with transgender issues, the politics of identity and colluding to circumvent democracy and prevent Brexit

    Brave men and women led by a vacuous, preening political class

    One day, we’ll have a party who will proclaim pride in the UK and elevate bravery to its rightful position

  14. MickN
    December 14, 2017

    Are you avoiding a thread about the home grown traitors who undermined our democracy last night?

    1. a-tracy
      December 14, 2017

      Let’s not fuel Soubry and the others fire. The best thing we could all do it completely and utterly ignore them and turn off the tv whenever they’re on, turn our backs on them, don’t rise to their bait. Soubry gets off on winding people.

  15. Pete
    December 14, 2017

    How about having a defence policy that does not invade other peoples countries? One that doesn’t secretly fund extremists destroying a sovereign state? One that doesn’t go along with the war mongering and insane Washington neocons? How about having a defence policy that only defends sovereign UK territory?

    1. SOS
      December 14, 2017

      Well said Pete

  16. Michael
    December 14, 2017

    There are at least 11 current Conservative MP’s who may find it difficult to stand on a Tory manifesto at the next general election whenever it may come.

    It would need to be carefully worded to accommodate them if it is thought they are worth the effort. More fudge to be manufactured?

    1. A.Sedgwick
      December 14, 2017

      Reading a critique of each in a newspaper it is difficult to understand how they can remain in the Conservative Party voluntarily or involuntarily.

  17. Alan
    December 14, 2017

    You have left out aid to the civil power or the civil administration (such as in Northern Ireland and during the foot and mouth disease outbreak). There is also public and ceremonial duties, which are important to some people.

    There is not much dispute over the objectives, but much more over how and whether we should provide the means.

  18. Chris S
    December 14, 2017

    We are currently unable to undertake three of the four policy aims because the last two governments, led by a Conservative Prime Minister have starved our military of funds to such an extent that the Navy in particular is no longer fit for purpose.

    It’s all very well building two new flagship Carriers but if we don’t have any aircraft to put on them and don’t intend to buy enough planes to equip both, what is the point ?

    The can’t go into harms way anyway because we no longer have enough planes, submarines and surface ships to protect one, let alone two. They will only be able to be sent into action as part of a NATO force, relying on US assets to protect them.

    The Navy has only 20 major combat surface ships of which six, the latest Type 45 destroyers, are unable to operate in warm waters and will have to be refitted with diesel generators at huge cost.

    Not long ago it was considered that 30 surface ships was insufficient.

    1. Mark B
      December 14, 2017

      Most of the problems you cite are a result of New Labour policies. However. The Conservative party has a long history of cutting defence. Soldiers, sailors and airmen do not have unions and the Labour Party to contend with.

      If we want well funded defence we need to tackle other areas of spending, like benefits and the NHS.

      Further. The Top Brass who want this kind of nonsense need to spend the money more wisely.

  19. Miss Brandreth-Jones
    December 14, 2017

    In the past there has been comments about the ineffectual nature of NATO.Perhaps these omissions can be highlighted in order to have more faith in the Organisational treaty.
    My last comment about your article was not published yet the corrections to my own piece were

  20. Anonymous
    December 14, 2017

    One thing is for sure.

    Our politicians cannot be trusted with a conventional ground force.

    – they cannot be trusted to deploy them in the best interest of this country

    – they cannot be trusted to deploy them with the right equipment for achievable objectives

    – they cannot be trusted to look after troops once they return, either injured or at the mercy of rapacious left wing lawyers.

    Let’s turn our military into a nuclear ballistic, carrier strike force with a marine commando capability. Concentrate on an anti terrorist force at home and a shore patrol – but no more occupying do-gooding forces.

    Lately I’m thinking the sooner we scrap the UK Parliament the better. If we are to be ruled by Brussels then let it be completely.

  21. Hope
    December 14, 2017

    I suspect the gutless May and spineless cohorts will sign the U.K. To the EU defence and security plan. Paying in billions and sending the navy as a ferry service for the mass immigration.

    Why has May not taken the whip away from the eleven last night? They are not going to vote with her and are acting against the Govt policy and public vote to leave the EU. Grayling pathetic this morning on TV spouting on about respecting their views! Is this how they scrutinized all EU law and regulation? All eleven celebrating after in the bar! Look at Guido if in doubt.

    General election please.

    Reply The 11 voted with us on 6 votes last night and I trust they will continue to vote with us in votes ahead.

    1. Chris
      December 14, 2017

      Reply to reply: they have made it clear, Mr Redwood, that they are going to carry on voting against.

    2. Chris
      December 14, 2017

      Reply to reply:

      I suggest that the robust interview of Stephen Hammond by Julia Hartley-Brewer is well worth listening to.
      S. Hammond sings from a very different hymn sheet from you, Mr Redwood, and it is also likely that he will vote against enshrining the leave date in law. What a disgrace he is, in my view, and it was the right thing for him to be sacked. However, more robust action is required for him and the other Remainers who acted so treacherously.

    3. Anonymous
      December 14, 2017

      Anna Soubry sounded utterly awful on the Jeremy Vine show today. Arrogant, rude etc ed – you could tell Vine was getting exasperated with her. Nigel Evans, however, was calm, measured, likeable and communicative.

    4. am
      December 14, 2017

      in the words of a former tennis player to mr redwoods reply: you cannot be serious.

    5. Hope
      December 14, 2017

      JR look at Guido you will see Soubry claiming to support May and Brexit to get elected. She won by the skin of her teeth, like Morgan. Her consitutiency is mainly for leave. Now explain her vote to stay in single market and customs union as did Clarke and her vote last night. Such votes demonstrates a will to stay in the EU against her claims to be elected! Fundamental breach of trust. She also supported an Odonis tweet to former Spad Timothy. Right to recall would sort her out, after Cameron failed to deliver his promise, she should be deselected.

  22. Lifelogic
    December 14, 2017

    An efficient, competent but defensive one. It is very far from that currently, hugely wasteful and misdirected.

    Meanwhile the BoE seem to have decided that its priority is gender neutral language. This rather that the total lack of competition in banking, the excessive misguided regulation of baks, the BoE general forcasting and economic incompetance or addressing their appalling behavior over anti Brexit propaganda.

    As misguided as the MoDs sitting duck aircraft carriers without aircraft or support ships.

    We are governed by fools or crooks in the main it seems.

  23. Andy
    December 14, 2017

    We should stop wasting money on nuclear weapons. The biggest threats we face are loan wolf terrorists and hackers. Against them nukes are as handy as a chocolate fire guard.

    Hackers getting in to our nukes is a huge risk and surely is just a matter of time before someone is able to do that and threaten us with our own weapons.

    The best defence policy, of course, is to avoid becoming a target in the first place. This means proper diplomacy, it also means a huge effort in international aid to stop problems before they start. It means cooperation, not isolation. In other words the Brexit vote for nationalism is the opposite of what we need.

    1. DaveM
      December 14, 2017

      “Hackers getting in to our nukes is a huge risk and surely is just a matter of time before someone is able to do that and threaten us with our own weapons.”

      Oh dear. You really should do some homework before you spout such nonsense.

      How much more international aid do you think we should spend? Are there a couple of dictators in Africa still without their own private jets?

      As for diplomacy, we have the farthest reaching diplomatic assets in the world.

      Oh, and it’s a lone wolf, not loan.

    2. Mark B
      December 14, 2017

      We already send £400 million to Pakistan. Who have nuclear weapons. Yet we cannot fund our own police.

      Our problems are nearer to home 😉

  24. formula57
    December 14, 2017

    Fifth would be having the capability to aid the civil powers at home in the event of serious domestic disturbances.

    As for continuing for no reward rather often opprobrium from pulling others’ chestnuts out of the fire arising from Security Council membership, it is high time we relinquished our permanent seat. (And a current bonus available from so doing would be to drive some remoaners even further towards madness (the sooner to destroy themselves) as they wrongly lament that Brexit means turning away from world engagement.)

    NATO’s mission ended in the 1990’s and its activities since have fostered a new type of cold war for no purpose that helps the UK. Fortunately, as we know, the forthcoming Johnson-Lavrov Non-Aggression Pact will do much to right matters there.

  25. acorn
    December 14, 2017

    A defence against incompetent governments would be nice. Since the fixed term parliaments Act, nobody can get rid of them, not even the Monarch as Head of State! The UK truly has an elected dictatorship in Downing Street.

    Parliament suffers “executive dominance” by the government of the day. Its legislative programme is determined by the executive. The first-past-the-post electoral system, produces majority governments, such that “executive” bills near always pass the House of Commons, with a lot of Punch & Judy debate but little democratic modification.

    Except yesterday.

  26. formula57
    December 14, 2017

    Another, most critical, aspect of defence policy must be that it avoids binding us to the defence efforts of the Evil Empire. The UK must be able to sit aloof from the maladroit adventures and foolery that is likely to come from that source.

  27. Fed Up and Angry
    December 14, 2017

    A new day and another act of treachery by the the traitors in parliament. What kind of defence does parliament want – apparently it wants an EU army. Democracy is now a sham – a joke. This parliament is rotten – the Queen should kick the lot out.

  28. Epikouros
    December 14, 2017

    Our new aircraft carriers may turn out to be the usual problem of our military still wishing to fight on the basis of the last conflict and not the next. In any event they do not have yet any aircraft in which to put on them and the proposed F35’s to do so by many accounts are not much good. Indeed modern warfare is being and going to be waged in very different ways than the past. It is going to automated and the need is going to be for far fewer combat troops but an emphasis on highly skilled and trained support personnel. So the recent decision to reduce the number of UK armed forces is probably a good thing if what is left is far better equipped for future conflict.

    One thing I believe we have learnt or I hope we have is that the majority of conflicts since WWII the UK have been involved in have been ill conceived, the UK army badly led and ill equipped. Also that we should not be involved in any conflicts other than those that present clear and direct danger to our shores and interest. Not perceived interests of our leaders. Most of the time we appear to do so for the aggrandisement of our political class and to profit certain vested interests. The days of being the world’s policemen and crusaders for democratic enlightenment is over not just us but the USA as well. It is not up to us to put other people’s countries in order that should be left entirely to them.

  29. Iain Moore
    December 14, 2017

    First we need to decide that we need a defense policy, for right now I am concerned that our Government has decided to do away with our ability to defend our country.

    The policy now seems to be to bribe countries with oodles of Aid not to attack us, with the military being used as a poster-boy (if are you allowed to say that these days) for political correctness, where the ability of our elite forces are compromised just so feminists or transgender activists can establish a token presence in regiments like the Royal Marines or SAS. Oddly while we are expected to pretend to believe that women are the equal to men in hand to hand combat , we are still supposed to support gender segregated sports because women would get hurt in a men’s rugby game.

    As to our forces , I understand we have 19,500 front line troops, I also understand the state is worried about 23,000 potential Jihadis wondering around the country. Do you see a problem developing here? We have invested in Aircraft carriers that aren’t nuclear powered, so need support ships to keep them fueled with ships we don’t have. We have built them without catapults , so reliant on VTOL aircraft that have yet to be proven to fly, which don’t need the size of Aircraft carrier we’ve built. Oh and we don’t have the navy to put together a carrier task force to protect those aircraft carriers. When warfare comes down to economics , we have gone and built a great big expensive sitting duck that we can’t defend. Brilliant.

    So its a case of defense policy? What defense policy? Any sort of defense policy would be better than this shambles, where its seems to be Government policy to undermine the best of what we have, and pouring vast resources into kit that was designed by committee that they are too parsimonious to protect. Whose side is the British Government on?

    1. stred
      December 15, 2017

      Actually, we are building two sitting ducks HMS Liz and HMS Charles without catapults or effective aircraft. At least, if they are sunk, we won’t have to recover a nuclear reactor.

  30. Russ
    December 14, 2017

    One that suppresses the ego of politicians and prevents needless foreign adventures.

    1. Mark B
      December 14, 2017

      Hear hear

  31. ale bro
    December 14, 2017

    don’t forget the prime minister needs a military force that can be used without a vote in parliament.

    that’s the current policy

  32. Lifelogic
    December 14, 2017

    Nick Timothy in the Telegraph today:- It is clear Mrs May say what she means and delivers what she says.

    Sure Nick! Strong and stable, Brexit means Brexitino. Did he hear her speach on immigration at the party conference a while back? Compare this to her position now in the EU negotiation. did she really think we had control of our borders through Schengen as she assured people in the referendum. She is a pathetic socialist, Pc, green crap joke. But slightly better than Corbyn.

  33. michael mcgrath
    December 14, 2017

    We also need, with maximum urgency, to establish and fully equip a fisheries protection facility to take control of our waters after March 2019

    Plus an effective marine patrol force to replace the Nimrods destroyed by CMD

    1. DaveM
      December 14, 2017

      All that’s in the pipeline. IOC 2020.

  34. DaveM
    December 14, 2017

    Most of what you write is already described in the DJOC. The three services know how to shape in order to fulfil the govt’s policy of the 3 Ps, but Defence cannot achieve what it wants to achieve while the Treasury continues to dither over funding.

    Williamson seems OK at the minute, and the Defence Select Committee seems to be solidly behind Defence rather than lap dogs to the Treasury. But as sound as the current Defence Policy may be, with accountants and Hammond dictating the Means, the Ways cannot be guaranteed and the Ends are therefore uncertain.

  35. Iain Gill
    December 14, 2017

    We need more infantry and less big toys.

    We need smaller MOD and senior ranks of the services bureaucracy.

    The money on cyber warfare is sadly mostly being wasted, as the same old clueless ex military officer duffers are in charge when there should be people who worked in IT man and boy at the top.

    The inter service rivalry, and duplication in roles at the top of the services, needs heads banging together.

    Re “unlikely event of a threat materialising” in case you have not noticed we have been bombed on the homeland several times recently, if this is not a threat I dont know what is.

    Your analysis is mainly focused on the threat from other states, and not the threat from non national terrorist style organisations like ISIS/ISIL/whatever we are supposed to call them this week.

  36. Prigger
    December 14, 2017

    “What kind of defence policy do we want?”
    One where MPs in the House of Commons do not have a final vote.

    Few of them have been sappers or ammunition technicians. But even if they had, there’s at least one MP who is ex-military and he is a complete plonker…a little boy.

  37. Lear's Fool
    December 14, 2017

    What about nation building in Afghanistan? You gonna let the Taliban take over again? Opium production has hit a record high with output doubling this year over last year. 1500 people die in the UK and 60,000 in the US as a result of Afghan heroin consumption – the Taliban don’t need to invade the UK or send drones – they just send heroin in exchange for cash like the UK did in China. Are you saying Helmand must be left to the Taliban to take over and convert more land to opium cultivation?

    1. Tony Harrison
      December 14, 2017

      We couldn’t take Helmand before, the Army was bailed out by the US, and we couldn’t take it now that our forces are even more enfeebled. Why should we anyway? Afghanistan is a dismal dustbowl on the other side of the planet. It’s not our business. etc edIf losers here wish to destroy themselves with hard drugs, let them: no-one has ever been able to stop people obtaining whatever drugs they wanted, and the futile effort to do so costs more in money & resources than it’s worth.

    2. Mitchel
      December 14, 2017

      If it’s the drug problem you’re worried about,rather than invade Afghanistan,introduce harsher penalties for possession and dealing and more resources for rigorous policing in this area.

  38. Sir Joe Soap
    December 14, 2017

    We need to identify pinch points for March 30 2019- areas where the democratic will of the people is likely to have been ignored by politicians, and the people are required to take back control themselves in their daily lives.

    Yes, fisheries is one area where we should be defending our waters as they were pre-EC with whatever means necessary.
    Avoiding EU produce is another.

  39. Mike Wilson
    December 14, 2017

    So, that’s it then. Brexit is now off. Parliament will never approve any sort of deal and will frustrate the referendum result. Interesting times ahead. The 17.4 million will never forgive the Tory and Labour MPs that frustrate the referendum result. A new politics looms. Maybe those 17.4 million will vote UKIP in 2022.

    1. Mark B
      December 14, 2017

      We are leaving no matter what. Art.50 is irreversible.

      1. Fedupsoutherner
        December 15, 2017

        Agree Mike. UKIP should take a leaf out of Labour’s book and make membership cheap and with the extra revenue that would generate they should bombard the electorate with the simple fact that democracy has been destroyed by our present politicians. Let’s face it, his much worse could things be with UKIP in power or with at least avfew seats to swing the vote,? It might just focus the minds of a few plebs.

    2. Fedupsoutherner
      December 15, 2017

      Agree Mike. UKIP should take a leaf out of Labour’s book and make membership cheap and with the extra revenue that would generate they should bombard the electorate with the simple fact that democracy has been destroyed by our present politicians. Let’s face it, his much worse could things be with UKIP in power or with at least avfew seats to swing the vote,? It might just focus the minds of a few plebs.

  40. Simon
    December 14, 2017

    Brilliant John. Just pretend the EU defence policy does not exist and that we did not sign up to PESCO.

    Reply No, we did not sign up to PESCO

    1. Simon
      December 14, 2017

      Yes but we signed up to all manner of related agreements. And Theresa has offered “unconditional” support to EU on defence.

  41. Kevin Lohse
    December 14, 2017

    Defence policy is the servant of foreign policy. How can there be a discussion. on defence when there has not been a White Paper on foreign policy in an age? Let’s put the horse in front of the cart, eh?

    1. Mark B
      December 14, 2017

      Correct ! See my post above.


  42. DaveM
    December 14, 2017

    The most important part of our Def Policy right now – IMO – is the forward based rotation of troops in Poland and the baltic states. US, Poland, Hungary,and the Baltics need to be our closest allies. Wait and watch….

  43. Tom William
    December 14, 2017

    Difficult to disagree with most of the comments. When the giant carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth was officially passed into the Royal Navy in Portsmouth recently we were told by the BBC that it would not be “fully operational” until 2021. No explanation or comment was made.
    It will be some time before they get their aircraft. There is not have enough surface fleet to protect them. We seem to have managed without them since the Harriers were scrapped, along with the carriers and Nimrods. What will be the need for these expensive white elephants? The money wasted on them by Gordon Brown, for his own reasons, could have made a huge difference if it had been spent on 21st century weapons for all three services rather than on a “super 20th century” weapons system for which we need to find a role.

    Rather like our expensive overseas aid.

  44. Duncan
    December 14, 2017


    I don’t trust neither you, your colleagues, your party. It is my firm belief that we saw last night was orchestrated, deliberate and strategic

    It goes without saying that Labour is the vilest of political entities but the Tories are slowly drifting away from the values we all hold so dear

    Our democracy, our values and our trust have been sacrificed on the altar of a politics that betrays all that we have known

    What would our forces become if they betrayed our nation in the same manner that your party is doing?

    My party is dying, its heart is dead, its soul obliterated…it’s now a carcass

  45. miami.mode
    December 14, 2017

    ……Third, the capability to go to the aid of territories and countries within the UK family, as we had to for the Falklands in the 1980s…….

    I have no idea why you have prioritised this as we have been constantly told in recent years by military-minded people that this is probably impossible these days with the reductions in our military capability.

  46. Denis Cooper
    December 14, 2017

    Off-topic, this is just one very obvious reason why we must leave the EU Single Market with its indivisible “four freedoms” and also not try to remain in the EEA:


    “Home Office policy to deport EU rough sleepers ruled unlawful”

    “High court says removal of homeless individuals originally from EEA countries is contrary to EU law and discriminatory”

    “A Home Office policy to deport rough sleepers from countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) has been ruled unlawful by the high court after a challenge brought on behalf of two Polish men and a Latvian.

    Since 2016 the Home Office has designated rough sleeping as an abuse of EU free movement rights in its administrative removal policy.

    The court ruled that the Home Office’s position was contrary to EU law. It also found the policy was discriminatory and amounted to an unlawful systematic verification of the EEA nationals’ rights to reside.

    Hundreds of EEA nationals detained under the policy may now be entitled for compensation for unlawful detention.”

    I’d like to see the defenders of EU free movement of persons try to defend this.

    1. zorro
      December 15, 2017

      Indeed, this needs to be four square and centre of the debate to show why we should not be in the EU. Are the Home Office challenging this?

      I also passed by Windsor & Maidenhead leisure centre the other day and saw the leisure centre car park overtaken by around 10 caravan/mobile homes with washing lines out blocking cars from parking. I doubt that parking fees or permission had been obtained from the council! The cars and caravans were French and German registered although the residents did not appear to speak those languages etc ed



      1. rose
        December 15, 2017

        Foreigners keep telling us we are too lax about EU free movers without jobs. They and Chukka Umunna say we are entitled to send them home after three months. So what law is this Mrs Justice Lang using to over-rule this EU rule?

        1. Denis Cooper
          December 16, 2017

          The article doesn’t cite specific laws invoked by the court, but:

          “The European commission has said EU member states have no right to deport EU citizens for being homeless and said EU citizens had a right to live in other EU countries “irrespective of whether they are homeless or not”.”

      2. Denis Cooper
        December 16, 2017

        I must check that out …

  47. Ed Mahony
    December 14, 2017

    What are the threats. Let’s look at history.

    – Terrorism from Northern Ireland
    – War in Europe – WW2. Millions died in general.. Holocaust. Destroyed our cities and our economy for years.
    – War in Europe – WW1. Millions of our men died in the trenches.

    Why did these thing crop up? Because of economic poverty, instability and excessive nationalism. People now say that the horrors of the 20th century couldn’t be repeated. But who would have thought in colourful, civilised Edwardian England you would get the horrors of the WW1 trenches and the horrors of the Nazis and the Holocaust.

    All you need is serious economic instability and poverty and you sew the seeds for conflict. The main reason the EU was set up was to create peace and security in Europe, primarily through trying to raise living standards and economic stability. All there have been and are many problems here, Europe has enjoyed much peace since WW2.
    Also, the EU played a key rule in helping to raise living standards in Northern Ireland. Higher living standards in Northern Ireland was the main reason for peace there.
    But a more prosperous Europe isn’t just good for the UK in terms of peace and security, it also provides us with new trading partners closer to home which always helps the less competitive businesses. Look at how Ireland went from relative poverty to relative wealth, with the EU playing a key role in that. Ireland is now an important destination for UK exports.

    European geopolitics. Something that Hard Brexiters have been very quiet about. But European geopolitics is so important when you consider how our country has been ravaged by war and conflict in Europe during the 20th century. Something that could easily happen again if serious economic instability and poverty were to ever hit Europe again.

    1. zorro
      December 15, 2017

      What’s that got to do with Brexit if the EU is so wonderful and apparently, according to you, ‘created peace and security in Europe’ and played a ‘key role in raising living standards in Northern Ireland’… Why is Brexit such a threat if the EU is such an awesome thing?


  48. Chris
    December 14, 2017

    Our government should take a leaf out of Donald Trump’s book: he has “repeatedly vowed to ‘wipe the hell out of ISIS’. Now, within a year, the Islamist terror group that gained so much ground and support during Barack Obama’s tenure – he dismissed them as a “J.V. team” – has been routed from Syria and Iraq” (Daily Mail, P Morgan article).

    Also, of huge importance, he has enshrined into law on Tuesday Defence Policy which fully supports the armed forces, unlike our Government. From the White House website:
    “President Donald J. Trump will Make the American Military Great Again.
    “As long as I am President, the servicemen and women who defend our nation will have the equipment, the resources, and the funding they need to secure our homeland, to respond to our enemies quickly and decisively, and, when necessary, to fight, to overpower, and to always, always, always win.” – President Donald J. Trump

    A BUDGET THAT SUPPORTS AMERICA’S INTERESTS: President Donald J. Trump has signed into law a defense budget that will support our national security and America First policies.

  49. Tony Harrison
    December 14, 2017

    Agree entirely that home defence should come first and foremost; I don’t necessarily agree with joining “international coalitions of the willing in pursuit of UN aims” except that if we restored our armed forces to a state of general competence then I suppose a Prime Minister could direct them to that end – though I’d prefer him or her not to trust the UN to do the right thing, not to trust its judgement, and not to embroil our country in foreign conflicts which do not directly affect us. I would have preferred us not to have ordered two extremely expensive carriers for which we do not presently have aircraft and for which we are dangerously (terminally?) lacking in defensive-screen destroyers, frigates and submarines; however, since the carriers are under way, those shortfalls must be addressed, otherwise they are white elephants that dare not leave harbour.
    Far better to have spent all those billions on a sizeable fleet of smaller, faster, heavily armed vessels to defend our seas, our fisheries, our coastlines. Far better also if bad decisions had not been made to dump the Nimrod upgrade (it was one of the world’s best maritime surveillance aircraft) and indeed to dump the Harrier: the US Marines knew a good thing when they saw it, bought up our Harrier spares at a knockdown price, and intend to keep the aircraft in service for a good many years more…
    Sadly, the Conservative Party has at least as poor a record on defence as does Labour: one of the most damaging defence decisions of the 20thC was Sandys’ White Paper of 1957 which damaged aircraft programmes and our national defence manufacturing at least as much as the subsequent Wilson government in 1966 which squashed the cutting-edge TSR2 and P1154; later, the Tories enjoyed undeserved good luck when Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, since if they’d delayed it by a year we would not have had the carrier capability to re-take the islands, the carriers having been flogged off…
    Lastly, one day a government with courage, patriotism and foresight will take the MoD in hand, sack thousands of civil servants, spend the money on good kit and frontline troops, and compel the procurement arm in particular to develop the good weaponry we know we can produce a very great deal faster, cheaper and more efficiently. I’m not sure the present government has what it takes – in fact I do not believe it for one second. It’s a feeble, indecisive, divided government run by second-raters, with the Marx Brothers waiting in the wings. Politically, this country is in a worse state than I can remember in nearly half a century of voting.

  50. Wibewal Wefty
    December 14, 2017

    Wars are not very nice. But when you engage in one it’s a frightfully good idea to win it by the speediest methods available. We don’t want an Urgent Debate called by say the SNP Leftie-Labour who would demand our soldiers only fire when they have asked the shooter “Did you really mean to shoot or did it go off by accident and do you come from a deprived home?”

  51. Alison
    December 14, 2017

    Strongly agree with Michael Mcgrath above re capability to defend our fishing waters. I believe that in the next 10 years there will many large-scale natural crises – flooding, damage through high winds, viruses attacking livestock – when we will need to call on the military – resourceful, efficient, brave, effective, considerate … (Just what RBKC needed after the Grenfell disaster).

    Off topic, in a normal, decent, patriotic world I believe parliament should have a vote on a constitutional matter, as is Brexit. However, it is clear that there are many MPs who are striving to subvert the expressed will of the people, by covert means.

    The Labour Party in the Commons is pretending to be Remain and Leave, deeply dishonest. I do think the whole parliamentary approach at the outset should have been to form an understanding of country unity, ignoring party political ‘interests’. It seems to me that someone like Jacob Rees-Mogg could build and maintain this, at least to a sufficient extent. I also believe that someone like JRM, and our host here, could present the ‘final’ ‘agreement’ (or, with any luck, absence of one) to Parliament and obtain the Commons’ support. (ie Please can we change Mrs May for somebody else ASAP)

    As things are now, I am hoping and praying that the EU stay true to form, keep on asking for lots more money, string negotiations out until the very last minute (shortly before 29 Mar 2019), and the unpatriotic MPs, Remainer Labour, Lib-Dems, Remainer Conservatives, having nothing they can support. I fear they will force an extension in negotiations.

    I did read (FAZ) that many MEPs are terrified of having UK MEPs being able to stand in the next EU Parliament elections.

    1. Chris
      December 14, 2017

      With regard to J Rees-Mogg, I see that both he and John Redwood are in the top 5 in recent survey on Cons Home. Some wisdom and sense at last.

  52. Alison
    December 14, 2017

    PS to last, meant to add, having a Commons vote means that it is possible to vote against a bad deal – ?

    1. Chris
      December 14, 2017

      Alison, I think there is an added complication which was brought up in the comments section of a Guido article: copied below the question plus response:

      “So if we decide to walk away with no deal then surely that means parliament has nothing to vote on in order to approve it. We could just walk away?

      “No – the way they worded the most recent “deal” was that, if the deal isn’t “good enough” (whatever that means) or it can’t be reconciled with the N.Irish border, we will default back to “full legislative alignment” (aka membership of the EU in all but name, minus many of the voting rights).
      Ain’t democracy great!”

      Mr Redwood, is this reply correct, that we have in fact signed away walking away from a deal and adopting WTO rules instead? That is what I suspect the EU thinks.

      Reply No

      1. Chris
        December 14, 2017

        A considerable relief. It is much appreciated that you take time to deal with genuine worries and questions raised here. Thank you.

  53. George
    December 14, 2017

    On a tangential issue, Theresa May said the recent Phase 1 Brexit negotiations required “give and take by both sides”.

    Can you please explain what the EU has given and what the UK has taken?

    I would genuinely like to know because I haven’t any answer to this question.

  54. nigel seymour
    December 14, 2017

    Forget defence matey, this country has always taken care of itself no thanks to Redwood who couldn’t tell one end of a gun from another…more to the point, what kind of Brexit to 17.4m voters want?

  55. SOS
    December 14, 2017

    Aircraft carriers are about projecting power, whose empire do our politicians want us protecting?

  56. Dennis Perrin
    December 14, 2017

    All tories (or indeed any party) need to know their boundaries between loyalty to the party leader and personal thinking integrity. So-called rebels are possibly more likely to have greater personal thinking integrity.

    It’s therefore treasonable to democracy for anyone to be accused of treason.

  57. Prigger
    December 15, 2017

    BBC Question Time had a wonderful audience for once. A surprise.
    Nicky Morgan MP ( still in the Tory Party ) and Rebecca Long-Bailey MP ( Labour ) got chewed up. Both more or less being called traitors by cross-party audience agreement.
    Conservative comedian Geoff Norcott and Conservative political journalist and commentator Isabel Oakeshott, both Brexiteers left largely uneaten.
    There is the politics of the UK and then there is the politics of Barnsley! 🙂

    1. rose
      December 15, 2017

      And David Dimbleby deftly crossed over to the politics of Barnsley. I have never seen him do that before. He must have been terrified.

  58. Sakara Gold
    December 15, 2017

    I am impressed with your command of the many issues surrounding the defence budget and the huge problems associated with the UK development of major assets for the armed forces. Many of the funding issues that we are facing today can be traced back to Gordon Brown and the shipbuilding TOBA (Terms of Business Agreement) signed in secret with BAe.

    This Terms of Business Agreement on naval shipbuilding was signed in secret by the Brown government with BAE Systems during the dying days of the 2005-10 Parliament. It locked the government into an appallingly poor 15-year commercial arrangement laced with a punitive get-out clause which, if made public, would have attracted an outcry during the run-up to the 2010 general election. The agreement left the incoming administration no room to maneuver at all as it started the 2010 SDSR, the first defence review in 12 years.

    This situation was compounded by Orborne’s decision to hollow out the navy. On 29th July 2010 the then Chancellor, George Osborne, announced that the MoD would have to fund the capital costs of replacing the Vanguard class submarines (Successor) from within its own core equipment procurement budget, instead of from the Treasury Reserve as had been expected.

    Contrary to popular belief, the costs of the UK nuclear deterrent have always come from the MoD budget. The source of funding for Trident has always been contentious. Maintaining Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD) has been both a blessing and a curse for the Navy. Osborne’s malign decision has inevitably has impacted directly on funding for other naval programs – resulting in repeated cost cutting and the current situation today, where the MoD is proposing to scrap the Fleet Flagship HMS Ocean three years after a £67m refit, cutting the Royal Marines in half and disposing of the amphibious assault ships Albion and Bulwark.

    Has the time come to the move the cost of Trident replacement out of the MoD budget?

    1. stred
      December 16, 2017


      Some top Admirals push for the white elephants too. Canny Scots. Perhaps the cost should be included in the regional aid budget. Possibly put a catapult on HMS Charles and flog it to Junker for his PESCO in lieu of the bribe on a credit card Mrs May has pulled out of her handbag.

  59. stred
    December 15, 2017

    A defence chief has pointed out that Russia could disrupt undersea communications cables and our economy. They and anyone else who has a ship and a line with a big heavy sharp plough could also cut undersea electricity links between France, Holland soon Denmark and maybe Iceland and also windfarms. Undersea gas pipelines could also be cut. Ships carrying oil, gas and wood pellets could be sunk, as could aircraft carriers in range of hypersonic missiles.

    Protected nuclear power stations and satellite communications might make us less vulnerable.

Comments are closed.