What forces do we need to pursue our foreign policy?

Home defence requires the UK to have sufficient mastery of the Channel and neighbouring seas, and of our airspace, to make invasion impossible or unacceptably costly to any potential enemy. We would normally expect NATO support, but having our own forces in place for any sudden initial attack remains vital.

The UK successfully prevented invasion by the Spanish in 1588, and by the French in the Napoleonic wars. These were achieved by sea power. The resistance to German invasion in the last century required air power and sea power, which were deployed successfully. We nonetheless experienced some shelling and bombing at home in the first world war, and major bomb attacks in the Second World War. The airforce had to deal with fighter and bomber incursions on a grand scale, and to combat the development of missile technology with German flying bombs and rockets at the end of the conflict.

Today we therefore need sufficient sea and air power to act as a deterrent to any potential aggressor. We also need the industrial capability to scale up weapons and ship production were we to find ourselves in a larger conflict. In 1939 the UK was ill prepared for what it had to do, but did manage an impressive scale up of its ships and aircraft production to replace heavy losses and expand the fleets and squadrons. Training enough pilots was a bigger issue than building enough aircraft during the height of the battle of Britain.

Offering assistance to NATO requires the ability to project force away from our home base. This in turn necessitates taskforce capabilities, with air heavy lift and sea delivery to transfer personnel and weapons to the battlefield. The UK in 1914 and in 1939 on both occasions got a small professional army exposed on the continent against superior forces. The death rate in 1914 was very high and led to the need to recruit a massively larger citizens army. In 1940 the retreat from Dunkirk rescued most of our stranded army in uncomfortable surroundings with the loss of large quantities of equipment. The lesson from this is to commit in conjunction with allies in ways which improve the odds of success and reduce the likelihood of disaster from exposing too few people to too large an opposing force.

Being able to help our associated territories and countries needs that same ability to project force at a distance and to marshal sufficient force to resist an invasion or to evict an invader as we did in the Falklands. There is a similar requirement to help the UN.

As an island nation the UK will tend to have more continuous need of maritime and airpower. This can be well used in support of others when we need to intervene overseas. The UK has not tended to have a large army in peacetime, but does have a very professional and effective smaller army. We need a credible professional army for all the roles identified.  This has been massively expanded during global conflicts, especially to intervene on the continent where opposing armies were large and well equipped. Now European countries are democracies and part of NATO the world has  changed for the better


  1. alte fritz
    December 16, 2017

    The message over recent decades seems to be that there is little contingency allowed for. We could no longer recover the Falklands, so we are told. Should we commit to armed forces which can fight on the other side of the globe? Is that not a high legacy cost of Empire?

    If the Russians invade Estonia, should we join in efforts to resist? If we do not, why should the USA? If, say, Poland or Germany will not, why should we? All unsettling for the Estonians by the way. It is clear that modern conflicts do not allow for the type of build up we had in previous wars, even though they have dragged on far longer than expected.

    Our Empire still haunts us and the EU’s ideas on defence seem so much hot air.My instinct, unhampered by the facts, is that we need to build up our capacity to a higher level, before, even at the most simple level, the habit of service has gone from service families.

    1. Rien Huizer
      December 16, 2017

      @ Alte Fritz (I should be Alter Fritz, despite his medical issues, Friedrich II of Prussia was male) Your last paragraph is excellent. However, which armed conflicts would you like to(be able) to win?

      1. alte fritz
        December 17, 2017

        Well, it’s taken a few years to catch that slip!

        To answer the question, any war that we must be involved in. That means taking care not to be drawn in to wars which are not our business.

    2. DaveM
      December 16, 2017

      “We could no longer recover the Falklands, so we are told.”

      Don’t believe everything you read!

      1. jerry
        December 17, 2017

        DaveM; “Don’t believe everything you read!”

        Indeed you should not, otherwise prey do tell us, what would we do for an aircraft carrier until about 2021?….

        1. DaveM
          December 17, 2017

          Jerry, you’re normally right on the button. However, I’m going to beg superior knowledge on this one on account of the fact that I work in MoD Main Building and have been part of a FI Working Group for 8 months. Forgive me if I don’t publish any details here!

      2. Rien Huizer
        December 17, 2017

        That would depend on the enemy’s capabilities. China might be much harder to dislodge than Argentina. This is all relative. But without amphibious forces the threshold would be a lot lower of course. Plus, the US might be not so sympathetic next time.

    3. Peter Davies
      December 17, 2017

      The Falklands is a different ball game now. Before a large task force was needed because there was little or no infrastructure in place, not even a proper runway.

      Now there are typhoon patrols and a depleted Argentina.

      1. jerry
        December 17, 2017

        @Peter Davies; What a dangerous assumption, almost akin to some peoples thinking during the mid 1930s…

  2. Lifelogic
    December 16, 2017

    The bizarre priorities of the MoD and the way that money is spent (often thrown down the drain) on defence procurement is a complete joke. Then again that is the way money is spent by governments in general on most things from the absurd renewables agenda, the NHS to this appalling rape case collapse after two years – due to appalling “incompetence” of the police and the DPP in failing to release evidence to the defence.

    I agree that we need sufficient sea and air power to act as a deterrent to any potential aggressor. But this needs to be provided efficiently and wisely, with sensible & rational priorities. For many the MoD is just an incompetent and even corrupt gravy train.

    1. jerry
      December 16, 2017

      @LL; But it’s been since the sort of economic theory you support that have cause our defence problems, as @alte fritz points out above, currently we could not retake the Falklands at the moment given the current way the MOD has been financed and run. In the past the two new aircraft carriers would have been built, commissioned and fully equipped (assuming that there was no transfer of aircraft) before the old carrier(s) were decommissioned and scrapped – at most they would have been mothballed.

      Efficient, ‘Just in time/enough’, style economics doesn’t work in the military, never has, never will, having to stop a production line because a component supplier has had a breakdown up-stream is economically inconvenient for the factory owner, for the military though it is likely to cost lives, or at least full retreat.

    2. eeyore
      December 16, 2017

      Lord Bramall comments today (DT) that the nuclear deterrent is a waste of money which would be better spent on cyber security.

      Music no doubt to Mr Corbyn’s ears, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Once a country’s power grids, banking systems, transport, communications, media and control and command are taken out by cyber attack, what can mere armed forces do?

      Samuel Colt called his famous revolver the Equalizer because possession of it made all men equal. Cyber warfare does just the same.

  3. Annette
    December 16, 2017

    Which makes it all the stranger that our defence forces are being decimated further at the point when, as an independent sovereign nation, we resume our responsibilities for, & control of, our own borders & territory. Anyone might think that the Govt is deliberately sabotaging our forces as part of a plan for the continuation of EU rule, dependent on ‘their’ army.

    Why has May failed twice to report to the House on topics covering defence at EU summits, & included in the EU summary versions? What are the defence agreements & commitments that she has unquestioningly signed SINCE the referendum, allowing the EU army to exist? Why not leave it for the 27 to agree after we’ve left? Don’t you think that you’re being conned with weasel words, much like Heath did with his ‘no loss of essential sovereignty’?

    At the very least, we would require patrol ships to prevent abuse of our fishing territories & fishermen, as well as the quiet landings of illegal immigrants on our shores. Drones may well be part of the answer, but it is not a total solution as I assume that they won’t be armed. Just like policemen on the streets, a physical & visible deterrent is required for our territories.

    1. Chris
      December 16, 2017

      Regarding your first sentence, Annette, it is not strange, Annette, when you realise that we have signed up already to very significant commitment to the EU defence policy, which is now apparently developing into a full blown EU army. This signing up took place only over the last couple of years. The government obviously thought it not necessary to duplicate. I believe the policy now that we are leaving, if you read the small print, is still to cooperate to the fullest with the EU on defence of Europe. So, in my view, the contraction of the armed forces will continue if this same government continues in power, and our commitments to the EU will increase (money and forces and other resources). I believe this is dangerous as there are those in control of EU foreign policy who have questionable and in my view misguided motives i.e. they are obsessed with expanding the EU empire and poking the Russian bear. We should have none of it, and leaving the EU would have given us the opportunity to do just that.

    2. Hope
      December 16, 2017

      There is. I likely end date to make our borders safe and secure May made this clear from phase one of her capitulation. EU family members can walk in and out, benefits given whether or not they live in the country. She is currently trying to fob people off with a migration policy being formed? Based on her appalling track record and her lack of trust I would not have any confidence that the U.K. Borders are safe or secure. You might recall she falsely claimed they were, this year three attrocities and last week Rudd said lessons learned when the suspect was known! Utterly disgraceful. John so. Wants the auK back in Syria when the Tory govt cannot keep us safe in our own country! A few basics need to be learned from this untrustworthy ramshackle bunch.

  4. Peter
    December 16, 2017

    Paul Kennedy’s “Rise and Fall of The Great Powers” catalogues numerous examples of military overstretch leading to decline. Many feel this is the inevitable fate of the USA especially if it pursues an active role in so many global conflicts.

    Britain has already fallen from power.

    What it spends to defend these islands is a considerable expense. Identifying the likely threats is therefore a key factor. Russia? China? North Korea? Another country? North Korea might be the most likely to kick off at present.

    The arms industry is still a big one in this country and one which is untroubled by German or Japanese rivals. It makes billions and sells lots to some extremely dodgy countries. So Britain’s economic benefits are in conflict with moral objections.

    Samuel Huntington makes the case that ‘Clash of Civilisations’ will be the next major conflict. I think he is right but I do not think it will be fought by conventional forces. I think there will be internal strife within Western nations that have foolishly allowed those who do not share our beliefs to settle here. Solving that will require ruthless internal security.

    1. Man of Kent
      December 16, 2017

      Peter ,

      Yes , we have seen the overstretch in the security forces in keeping tabs on some 3000 lone wolf type jihadis .
      Should just 5% of these people act in concert then the police could be stretched to breaking point and the army would have to be called in .

      We badly need boots on the ground not a reduction in the size of the army to 50,000.

      1. Lifelogic
        December 16, 2017

        Indeed, but what perverse priorities the government, police and security forces seem to have when it comes to law and order. More politics than sense almost every time and indeed fashion. Currently in vogue are thought & hate crimes and historical, alleged sexual abuse claims.

      2. Robert Christopher
        December 16, 2017

        In the aftermath of a terrorist atrocity, does it really make matters better if those involved were known to the Security Services as the news media appear to imply?

        In some ways, if they weren’t known you could think that it was a case of them slipping through the net, as no security is perfect, but if they were known, well, it points to ineffectiveness that endangers the public. I don’t think those in the Security Services are at fault: that lays at a higher pay grade.

    2. Mitchel
      December 16, 2017

      I believe the USA has already entered the decline phase-it has been held in check in Ukraine,is being humiliated by North Korea,has lost control of the Middle East ,is committing more resources to a war it cannot win in Afghanistan(not least because the regional powers will not allow it) and is seeing erstwhile allies/vassals waver-Phillipines,Turkey etc.

      The extremely flawed decision to see Russia(which is the world’s pivot power,in that you cannot have global domination without control of the world heartland) as prey rather than to be brought into the fold after the end of the USSR has been catastrophic-and may prove fatal for the west-as it aligns with China.Together they are advancing west,taking increasing control of energy and trade logistics.

  5. Ian Wragg
    December 16, 2017

    We need to keep the capability to ramp up arms production in case of conflict. Why do we have South Korea building RFAs in favour of UK shipyards.
    Why do we buy German trucks instead of UK vehicles.
    We are destroying our industrial base just to suck up to the EU.
    Let’s get a Trump. Britain first, middle and last.

    1. Dave Andrews
      December 16, 2017

      We may buy ships from abroad, but we have a genuine home-grown British admiral for each one we have.

    2. Bob
      December 16, 2017

      @Ian Wragg
      WW2 lasted 6 years. Less time than took to build our new flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth.

      Consecutive governments have chipped away at the UK’s industrial capacity which will take years to reverse. The problem is that if you restrict govt contracts to British firms they will get lazy and the trade unions will milk the taxpayer. The UK will never be able to compete with countries that have competitive industries with easy hire and fire policies which prevent workers from gaining an entitlement attitude in respect of their jobs.

      1. Mark B
        December 17, 2017

        Of course if you make energy artificially expensive the industry such as steel and aluminium become more expensive and British good less competitive.

        Something to think about.

    3. jerry
      December 16, 2017

      @Ian Wragg; Whilst agreeing with your basic point, the decline you cite has been caused by our own domestic political choices.

      If you want UK ship building first you need a government who will back such industry, not simply allow market forces free reign. There is no reasons why the UK can not build more of its own MOD ships, vehicles and even aircraft, but first we need to have a government willing to support our own industry in the lean times between contracts if needed. Stop blaming the EU or others for our own home grown political and industrial lethargy!

      1. ian wragg
        December 16, 2017

        The RFAs in question were never offered for tender to UK shipyards. The MOD backed by the government chose South Korea and much was spent on modifications afterwards.
        The same happened with the army trucks. MAN were ordered against the superior UK built AWD.
        They are a bunch of tossers who think overseas jollies are more important than backing UK plc
        We now have May signing up to 2 more years of full EU membership to allow them time to destroy us, at the end of which another 2 years will be required to prevent “a cliff edge”

        1. jerry
          December 17, 2017

          Ian Wragg, “The RFAs in question were never offered for tender to UK shipyards.”

          Perhaps because the UK has such limited ship building capacity, same with motor vehicles, same with aerospace. Back in the 1970 and before thought….

      2. getahead
        December 16, 2017

        Not sure that he is blaming the EU or others.

        1. jerry
          December 17, 2017

          @getahead; Then why did Ian even mention the EU…

          Blaming others for ones own problems is the usual form for those who do not wish to look to long in the mirror.

    4. Rien Huizer
      December 16, 2017

      Trump wants you to buy US stuff, instead of other foreign stuff. And a “Trump” role exists in only one country: the US. A Chinese or Russian Trump is hard to imagine. These people would consider someone with his personality lacking gravitas and discipline. A UK “Trump ” would not be able to get there due to UK institutions (the head of state is unelected and the head of government is a member of parliament). You would need Orwellian circumstances to make your dream come true perhaps.

      1. Mark B
        December 17, 2017

        What is the difference between PRESIDENT Trump and Chancellor Merkel ? None ! They are both heads of foreign governments and look after their own interests. I just wish our government did the same.

        1. Rien Huizer
          December 17, 2017

          Merkel has a PhD in physics?

    5. Ed Mahony
      December 16, 2017

      The only way to begin to make Britain great again is through work ethic, strong family values and patriotism.

      Trump’s hard-nosed bravado, as President, is just show and will only lead to short-term success and long-term failure.

      1. Mark B
        December 17, 2017

        Agree with the first paragraph but would much prefer to wait and see on the second.

        1. Ed Mahony
          December 17, 2017

          Without work ethic, strong family values and patriotism how can a country begin to have any real long-term success?

          1. Ed Mahony
            December 17, 2017

            It was (Christian) work ethic that played a key role in the success of England’s great days:

            – The Quakers (a very small group of people) who founded Sony (Quaker Japanese) Barclays, Lloyds, Cadbury, Clarkes, Rowntree, Fry etc …

            And (Christian) work ethic that also challenged the manipulation of people in the workplace. For example, William Wilberforce who abolished slavery.

            And (Christian) work ethic in the sciences. The following all devout believers: Sir Isaac Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, and many others.

            And (Christian) work ethic in the arts: Handel, Sir Christopher Wren, great Cathedrals of England, Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, and others.

            And (Christian) work ethic in education: Oxford and Cambridge founded by the Catholic Church with monks and friars playing a key role in its early education. And so on.

            And (Christian) work ethic challenged strong family life (and it’s easy to see the connection between stable families and stable neighbourhoods and stable country in general.

            And connected to (Christian) work ethic, the Christian virtue of patriotism (love of arts, nature and people in general).

            And connected to (Christian) work ethic, it was the Catholic Church who played a key role in giving us our Courts of Law, Parliament, Monarchy, Grammars Schools and more.

            It is ultimately (Christian) work ethic and Christian culture in general that leads to the greatest happiness for our country, materially (‘strong and stable’), emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

            Not saying you have to be religious to agree with me. There are many atheists who would. And for those who are agnostic, it might be another reason to consider the importance of these to improve the quality of life in general, in all the different important ways, for all. And of course, for believers, to believe more, for the sake of our country.

  6. Sakara Gold
    December 16, 2017

    This piece suggests to me that you are interested in defence from a historical point of view, however you fail to note the successful Dutch raids on the Fleet at Chatham carried out over several days in June 1667. The RN was effectively destroyed and the Fleet flagship HMS Royal Charles was seized as a prize and towed back to Holland. We were unprepared for this back then due to a parsimonious Treasury refusing to adequately fund the navy in the previous years. Does this sound familiar?

    Armchair strategists always fight the last war but what we need now is to follow the last Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015, which looked at the current threats that we face – which now is mainly from Russia. (discussion of recent exchanges with Russia deleted that I cannot check ed)
    There is something very wrong with our defence system when there are more Admirals in the MoD than ships in the navy, more Major Generals than tanks in the army and more Squadron Leaders than aircraft in the RAF. If we have to make savings, thats where to start, not by constantly scrapping capability.

    We were lucky in WW2. Had Hitler been able to mount a nuclear weapon on Werner von Braun’s V2 rockets, we would all be speaking German now. Politicians need to properly fund our defences in a challenging world or we may not be so lucky next time.

  7. BretW
    December 16, 2017

    The whole age structure of the armed forces needs to be looked at in the light of the greatly increased life expectancy and better health and fitness of people in todays world. Letting fully trained, highly resourceful officers and men all ranks to retire after only twenty years service on full pensions is a terrible waste of resources and is somethi ng that might have been more in tune with tne way things were in the mid ninteenth century. Soldiers sailors airmen all ranks could very easily carry on for thirthy years given the choice and keep all of that experience inhouse- it should all be looked at.. apologies if i have it wrong

    1. alan jutson
      December 16, 2017


      Sensible and logical comments with which I absolutely agree.

      Why do we not also use our injured or retired forces personal within the border police/passport control departments, even if only an office capacity for those who are seriously injured, rather than make them leave.

    2. DaveM
      December 16, 2017

      You’re not wrong, but given the limited numbers of servicemen employed, if people are allowed to stay forever there’s no pull-through which means no promotion, and with no promotion comes no pay rise, which means people leave in order to get paid more for doing less in terms of time away, more flexible working and so on. And if there are no vacancies there will be no one to replace the older servicemen because they’ll be employed elsewhere.

      Add to that the fact that – in many units of ground forces – the body can only take so much, and you’d end up with loads of broken old men like me hanging around with no obvious employment!

      The forces are shaping correctly to fulfil govt FP but there’s far too much money spent on eqpt which is extortionately expensive because everything has to be excessively protected to avoid lawsuits. This results in less money for training, which in my opinion based on 27 years’ service is a far better way of preserving life in combat than a massive vehicle with guaranteed blast protection.

    3. Lifelogic
      December 16, 2017

      Some get vastly expensive training costing £1M+ to fly military jets or helicopters yet only serve for a few years (even some from the royal family). This makes no sense economically at all.

      1. ian wragg
        December 16, 2017

        Not so. When we did promotion courses, we had to sign up to 5 years return of service. We should be doing that with NHS staff after paying for their training.

      2. jerry
        December 17, 2017

        @Lifelogic; Unless you are advocating greater use of ‘drones’, which tend to cost far more to start with, you are being somewhat simplistic.

    4. Bob
      December 16, 2017


      The government’s priority seems to be making sure the armed forces have prescribed gender, religious, cultural and religious quotas and no doubt will include disabilities and dysmorphic conditions in their idealistic Utopian vision.

      The foes that threaten us will not be hamstrung by the same idiocy.
      One can only conclude that the enemy is already within the gates.

    5. Dave K
      December 16, 2017


      You are slightly out of date as for a long time now (approx 20 years) the second open engagement was offered to take the leaving age up to 55 (RN). Nowadays that has been extended by another 5 years and in certain circumstances another 10. In the next year or two there may even be a Naval Rating who has served for 50 years and will be retiring at age 67 (new government retirement age).

    6. Peter Davies
      December 17, 2017

      I remember having tjis discussion with someone from the RAF years ago. It was quite common for RAF ground/admin staff to serve 35 year’s which then bottle necked their rank structure and promotion prospects.

      Contrast that to the army 22 year soldier making promotion a lot quicker. This is something you have to have otherwise it’s not worth staying in.

      Having said that I think It does make sense to keep selected trades in longer especially the highly trained pilots etc which cost a fortune to train. for many in demanding posts like front line infantry many people are too knackered to carry on hence needing the 22 year option.

  8. Anonymous
    December 16, 2017

    EMP resistant drones and cyber technology.

    We also need counter cyber technology.

    Any major upscaling of a ground war will likely go nuclear anyway and boots on ground occupations have been a disaster in the ME.

    We need a way of replenishing special forces without having a large land army to select from.

    I have no idea either. Perhaps recruiting for selection from the civilian population like the security services do. There are some incredibly fit and intelligent snowflakes around.

    1. Kevin Lohse
      December 16, 2017

      If “they” are incredibly fit and intelligent, they’re not snowflakes.

  9. WingsOverTheWorld
    December 16, 2017

    I believe we need to shape up for a modern era of battle, one where telecoms is just as important as a man and a rifle; one where losses of those men with rifles are anathema to the public, whose support is needed to engage in continued fighting.

    In my (untrained) opinion, that means a smaller number of more specialised, quick- deployment ground forces;

    More reliance on UCAVs, which will allow higher rates of deployment, more manoeuvrability, longer loiter time, and no politically-toxic UK casualties if lost.

    Faster, more manovrable, more automated ships with very high velocity projectile weaponry – rail guns, cruise missiles and the like;

    A robust, decentralised, standardised comms network that can withstand attacks through hacking, jamming or through our power supply;

    Control over social media platforms which may be used for subversive propaganda in times of war.

    The upfront cost of many of these platforms is very high, and the technology some way off, but we should be using this time to invest into these systems – especially as high-tech r&d is something we seem to be good at as a nation. Weapons sales are still one of our best exports, are they not? Even if we don’t profit from our investment, we would at the end have a more nimble, more integrated, more automated force, with less opportunity for pictures of flag-draped coffins driven from airbases.

  10. jerry
    December 16, 2017

    “In 1939 the UK was ill prepared for what it had to do, but did manage an impressive scale up of its ships and aircraft production to replace heavy losses and expand the fleets and squadrons. Training enough pilots was a bigger issue than building enough aircraft during the height of the battle of Britain.”

    But since the 1980s that situation is reversed, we’ll have no problem training pilots (or any other military skill, after all the UK has a very strong VR/flight simulator/game-play software industry, assuming we can obtain the silicon chips), our problem though would be the finding the light, medium and heavy non defence sector industries we were able to mobilise between 1938 & 1945 – everyone from the peace time toy manufactures, automotive manufactures to railway workshops, all placed on a war footing, turning production to first defence/aircraft requirements, then those of D-day and beyond, everything from cockpit canopies to the Mulberry Harbour. Yes our Empire and then the USA helped, but remember that first we had to stand alone…

  11. agricola
    December 16, 2017

    The first requisite is to decide what our foreign policy is regarding our Commonwealth, NATO, and the UN. Should we consider supporting NATO nations who cannot be bothered to provision for their own defence or that of fellow members. I would advocate supporting the UN only when it is in our own interests. There are sufficient Kalashnikovs within the membership for more of them to take responsibility for their own belligerence.

    Possibly the cheapest way to expand the pilot base is to have auxiliary pilots on weekend attachment to all the squadrons. You might need a few more aircraft and maintenance staff to match the hours flown.

    I suspect that the Royal Navy suffers a lack of ships and people to man them and is in no way ready to police our borders or fishing grounds come March 2019. Nor has it a battle fleet capable of protecting two carriers. They only survived the Falklands conflict by the skin of their teeth and human courage, but there is no sign that things have improved since then.

    For the home islands I would hope that we have a suitable long reach ground to air system, a radiation proof communication system, and an adequate underwater warning system. I also hope that we are developing a remote air, land , and underwater defence system.

    Finally there is the threat from within who are already planning and practising our demise. I hope we have plans and the means to shut them down within 24 hours.

    1. agricola
      December 17, 2017


  12. Pete
    December 16, 2017

    To pursue the UK’s foreign policy of the last few years we need lots of covert special forces to attack and undermine sovereign states, lots of funding for terrorist organizations to do the heavy lifting of destroying those states and a very compliant media that refuses to report these actions.
    Aircraft carriers with no planes and a nuclear deterrent that even if it worked is pointless doesn’t really cut it.

    1. Bob
      December 16, 2017

      “lots of covert special forces to attack and undermine sovereign states, lots of funding for terrorist organizations to do the heavy lifting of destroying those states and a very compliant media that refuses to report these actions.”

      you mean like the subversion program that we currently see going on all around us in Britain courtesy of Common Purpose ably assisted by the British Establishment including the and the broadcast media.

  13. Chris S
    December 16, 2017

    We have an excellent basis for projecting power in our two new Carriers. However without sufficient surface ships, submarines and aircraft to protect them, they are no more than a floating vanity project.

    We need a surface fleet of at least 30 major combat ships. We currently have less than 20 and five of the most important have serious problems and can’t operate in warm waters !

    We can make do with a smaller army as long as the reserve is built up to the 30,000 intended. It currently isn’t anywhere near that number.

    The RAF has the Eurofighters it needs but, thanks to Cameron, the Maritime Surveillance force is currently non-existent and will remain so until 2019 at the earliest. A dire state for a maritime Island Nation.

    A senior officer I know, an expert in this field, told me that the nine American P8As we are buying to replace the scrapped Nimrods, are barely sufficient to oversea the Western Approaches and Scottish Waters, let alone protect our new carriers. Also, they are being bought “off the Shelf” so none of the excellent British weapons and equipment we have can be used ! We will have to acquire inferior US Mk54 torpedoes and even our Sonar Buoys, a British invention, will have to be complemented by US ones to use in just this one aircraft.

    Range will be a big issue because we won’t even be able to carry out Air-to-Air refuelling because the US system is different !

    As ever, more money is needed. It should be taken from the bloated Foreign Aid budget.

  14. BOF
    December 16, 2017

    We have two aircraft carrier, one launched and the other on the way at the moment . There is not the manpower to man them, the aircraft to fly off them and insufficient vessels to provide a support fleet with many in dock broken down or stripped of parts to keep another afloat.

    The Chancellor seems more keen to to pour endless billions into the sclerotic EU for an indefinite period than to properly fund our armed forces.

    We do need to spend far more on defence to simply restore our forces capability. And absolutely nothing on any EU army.

  15. Iain Moore
    December 16, 2017

    Home defense ? Don’t make me laugh. China is being given a strategic hold on our critical infrastructure , they are going to be running our nuclear power stations. Today we hear Cameron is going to be given a job to help the Chinese gain an even bigger presence in our country, meanwhile the British state fritters away billions aboard in Aid, We beg the Chinese to buy chunks of our country while we enrich African despots Swiss bank accounts. So what is our Military going to be defending? Chinese, Russian, and Omani assets? As the British establishment has no sense of nation or country may be we shouldn’t bother with defense and instead just ask the Chinese Red Army to come here and protect their assets.

  16. Epikouros
    December 16, 2017

    The UK has a propensity to never be prepared enough when she is called upon to engage in armed conflict but she has produced many military and political leaders and subordinates of outstanding quality that have luckily compensated for that deficit. I am sure the future will always see us poorly prepared(the aggressor will always be better prepared as they will be motivated to be so whilst we will not be as we have no designs on other people’s property and liberties as they do) and on current evidence there will not be quality of leadership and others to compensate for that deficit. The culture and moral compass that produced those that through great hardship and sacrifice kept us safe are now too few in numbers. Most will be running to their safe spaces to hide or offering enemies cups of tea and sympathy.

  17. Mark B
    December 16, 2017


    Good morning

  18. fedupsoutherner
    December 16, 2017

    Why are we giving billions away to the EU and cutting back on our armed forces? I had two brothers, one in the Parachute Regiment and the other in the RAF. Both said they were underfunded and didn’t have the equipment they needed to do the necessary job. Indeed, one lost his life in the Falklands and as we know, we had to rely heavily on America to finish the job. Many complained of not having the right boots for the job and the terrain and no night sights etc.

    Instead of running down our armed forces we should be adding to their strength if we are to be a true sovereign nation and have to patrol our own shores. What’s the point of an aircraft carrier without planes and when they do get them, they will be out of date? Once again the laughing stock of the world. It is a disgrace to send men to war without being well equipped.

    Cut the foreign aid budget and money for HS2 and the EU and start looking after the country’s security and that includes our police forces too.

  19. Rien Huizer
    December 16, 2017

    No defence planning is possible without one or more specific “threats” or enemies. The UK’s neighbours belong to NATO (except Ireland) and are, like the UK under US custodianship. Without US consent and support, no NATO country can make war of any significance. Thinking beyond NATO is always useful but those who have participated in such exercises know that it quickly becomes nonsensical. We will have to do whatever it takes to keep the US happy in its role and everything else is a waste of resources. There is no way a group of European countries, even in an unlikely alliance with Russia, could replicate US capabilities or exceed them. The European option space is very narrow and the much smaller UK has an even smaller space. There is only so much people want to sacrifice for a very distant threat.

  20. Bert Young
    December 16, 2017

    If Hammond was out of the way I believe there would be a good chance to re-build our Armed Forces . Asserting our independence cannot be achieved without supporting might . Today other means are also necessary including more sophisticated means of intelligence gathering – being forewarned is closely linked to any ability to strike back .

    Our new young Defence Minister has declared his intentions to fight against the constraints Hammond has imposed and this determination ought to be supported . Our relationship with NATO is equally important ; it is a reminding tweak to the EU of how retaining our interest in defence is as important as a good trade deal .

  21. English Pensioner
    December 16, 2017

    I’m concerned that we are putting all our eggs in one basket! Just a single aircraft carrier full of all the latest technology; wouldn’t it have been better to have more less sophisticated carriers? The same with other naval ships. The assumption seems to be that we will only need to be in one place at a time.

    The same with the RAF. Are all the hugely expensive aircraft justified or would not more less complex aircraft be better? Drones seem to be the future, but I’ve seen nothing about us producing our own, we are relying on the US.

    What are we doing about a less sophisticated enemies like ISIS and the Taliban who rely on numbers rather than technology? Can we fight a low-tech war?

    The other thing that I don’t feel we are considering is the nature of Islamic extremism. Never before have we had an enemy whose members will deliberately kill themselves if they can kill the enemy. The nearest we’ve had were the Japanese kamikaze pilots. It’s very difficult to deter or defend oneself from an enemy that doesn’t mind being killed. We need to think about new strategies!

  22. Peter D Gardner
    December 16, 2017

    No mention of marine resources, especially fisheries. Monitoring and enforcing compliance with UK’s rules for its EEZ will require capabilities UK does not possess. They will take several years to procure. No doubt hammond will wait until there are no resource left to police and UK becomes a laughing stock.

    1. Robert Christopher
      December 16, 2017

      You are assuming that we will have some fishing grounds to protect.

  23. Peter D Gardner
    December 16, 2017

    I have just been talking to a retired senior officer very much in touch with the top brass. Morale is rock bottom. Recruitment is dire. The Armed Forces have been greatly taken advantage of and badly treated by successive recent governments – Tories are as bad as Labour. Politicians have little or no understanding of the Armed Services, nor of warfare, strategy or history. Hardly any have any professional training or experience in defence, war or strategy, have little understanding of technology, major project procurement, even of industry. They have even less interest.
    We now have a government that see little use for the services other than as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with the EU.
    Politicians in general today are not fit to take charge of grand strategy or military strategy, nor of defence policy.
    Politicians continue to taunt Putin to make themselves look good and seem unaware that the volunteers who used to queue up to join a worthwhile cause and undergo a satisfying and rewarding experience have stopped coming. Dream on politicians. You are on your own.

  24. Denis Cooper
    December 16, 2017

    Obviously it will be necessary for our armed forces to go through some kind of status quo transition in parallel with the status quo transition in our foreign policy, where we will be leaving the EU “technically and legally” but nothing will actually change, as so helpfully explained by Philip Hammond during his trip to China:


    “Brexit transition deal will ‘replicate the status quo’, Hammond says”

    When are you going to openly rebel against this bloody nonsense, JR?

    When are you going to stand up in the House of Commons with dictionary in hand and lay it on the line to these dunces on both sides of the chamber that by definition a “transition” involves change and a “transition” which just replicates the status quo is not a “transition” at all and should not be misrepresented to the voting public as a “transition”?

    Or indeed even as an “implementation period”, during which nothing in the way of change is going to be implemented, apparently, as everything will stay the same?

    When are you going to ask them why for two years plus everybody in the country, every person and every business, will still remain subject to all the same EU rules after we have left the EU, “technically and legally”, as before we left, “technically and legally”?

    Have we not long asked why everybody in the country, every person and every business, should be subject to the restrictions of all applicable EU laws when only a small minority are involved in exporting to the rest of the EU – 6% of businesses by number, maybe 10% by volume of business – and moreover only a small proportion, maybe 25%, of all EU laws are relevant to the EU Single Market and to our exports into the rest of the EU?

    When are we going to hear some sense about all of this?

    1. Hope
      December 16, 2017

      Dennis, I wrote weeks ago that this is an extension not transition. I am surprised you were slow on the pick up, as you are the most respected fact finder on this blog, and were happy to a transition if limited. Clause 46,49 and 50 of May’s capitulation makes it clear the U.K. will be perpetually extending the status quo unless the U.K. Walks away with out a deal by 29/3/2019.

      Lord Lawson and Lord King sum it up perfectly, the U.K. Cannot get a mythical good deal otherwise the other 27 would leave. All the fawning by her party last week was sickening when she capitulated and made a stem ET of intent to remain in all but name. Her idiotic party congratulated her! Grief has now got May not put the date of withdrawal on the bill! It will be flexible! Who voted for this? Why is Grieve, Soubry and Morgan not deselected they failed to represent constituents, party, govt and national vote. There is no proper right to recall so it is incumbent on the party to deselect them for fundamental breach of trust.

    2. Mark B
      December 17, 2017

      No answer came the stern reply 😉

      But at least you got your off topic and linked post posted. I’m still waiting 🙂

  25. The PrangWizard
    December 16, 2017

    I have little faith that the present government with its spending priorities and views is willing or capable of applying itself to the proper defence of our island and dependent territories. The continuing cutbacks in our force capability while asserting we are being safeguarded is an embarrassment. I am suspect it is deliberate rather than dictated by adverse circumstances.

    The principle arm of our defence should be the Royal Navy and Marines followed by the Royal Air Force but both have become woefully weak and barely capable of defending themselves, and I fear what we will have in future will not have an operational capability fully independent of other nations. As for manpower, shortages could be made good if people thought we had forces worth joining. We must expand both urgently – obsession with the absolute latest specification should be seconded initially to quantity and given over first to near sea, submarine and missile defences, and fishery protection and smuggling.

    And having sold in recent decades to foreign ownership strategic industries and major and minor manufacturing with the support and encouragement, sadly, of our host, how will we mobilise them in the event of war or dispute should there be a conflict of interest between our national need and that of the country of ownership. We are also far too dependent on foreign goodwill for our energy supplies; and who owns all the merchant ships we will need for supplies assuming we can buy them in case of difficulty? Why was our merchant navy allowed to disappear when others were building theirs?

    Just as we are being betrayed on Brexit so it is with defence and national identity generally. It seems to grow from the bizarre notion and mindset that foreign is best and we should subsume ourselves to the rest of the world; thus it is wrong to assert our national interest. We now talk weak, apologise and concede too readily, and naturally are being taken advantage of everywhere.

    We desperately need new leadership with new policies and attitudes.

  26. miami.mode
    December 16, 2017

    Conventional forces and boots on the ground will always be needed in any conflict , but surely the main battlefields of the future where developed nations are involved will be fought in cyberspace and through other such remote locations. Doubtless much of this will be on a secret list, but what is not secret is the role played by GPS systems and this can only mean that we must have access to the EU Galileo system or develop our own.

  27. Yossarion
    December 16, 2017

    In the Eighties We had fifteen type 52 main battle Tank Regiments with around 1100 tanks, 800 Chieftain 300 Challenger 1, some having base overhaul and others in dryclad. Today we have around 250 Challenger 2 with only two full time Regiments serving on them and the rest in dryclad.
    There are those that say the age of the Tank has gone, However you only have to look at Afghanistan to realize the problems when you take ground one day then give it up the next because you do not have the ability to hold the ground that tanks give you.

    1. Mark B
      December 17, 2017

      In the 80’s we had a thing called the Warsaw Pact to contend with.

      Tanks were invented to support the infantry and that is their job today.

      We have no tanks in Afghanistan and neither do the local warlords.

    2. Peter Davies
      December 17, 2017

      I can’t see how you can hold ground with main battle tanks apart ftom in a long confrontational line

      I thought the tank was designed for huge offensive operations in wide open areas like the plains of northern Europe or deserts of the middle east

  28. Simon Blanchard
    December 16, 2017

    Not once was the word PESCO or EU Permanent Structured Cooperation on Defence or EU Military Unification mentioned. What is it with so called Brexit MPs who can’t say the words? Is it cursed like a Harry Potter novel? Mention PESCO and they run a mile.
    Britain was within a whisker of being joined up last month. Any debates on PESCO in parliament?…no?

    In WW1 and WW2 we had an industry that could respond in short time. In 2017 there’s virtually nothing left and what is left is tied up in EU redtape. Both Labour and Tory have systematically destroyed any capability both in the field and at home, we once had so what’s left would be merged, assimilated and consumed into an “EU Army” and EU industrial complex. Become interdependent on the EU to make even a paperclip.

    As a sovereign nation we should be able to design, manufacture and or source any equipment for defence independently, However the Tories or Labour will make sure that never materializes. PESCO looms over the horizon but you won’t hear a peep from John Redwood.

  29. Ian Wragg
    December 16, 2017

    I see we’re being softened up by the BBC and some of the MSM for a 2 year extension of EU membership with all the whistles and bells.
    It seems JR-M is on the case. If May signs up to this she .must be replaced immediately.
    As he says, taking orders from a foreign governments makes us a vassal state.
    No thanks.

    1. jerry
      December 16, 2017

      @Ian Wragg; “taking orders from a foreign governments makes us a vassal state. No thanks.”

      So you think the UK should leave NATO then?!

      There is no reason why, as Mr LL might put it, the UK could not become a Greater Switzerland….

  30. mickc
    December 16, 2017

    It would be best to first decide what our foreign policy should be.

    I cannot see that Russia presents any meaningful threat whatsoever, nor Iran, North Korea or indeed any of the bogeymen about which the USA’s Swamp hyperventilates; that is simply a means for the USA to try to achieve hegemony. In fact, it was Russia which defeated the US/Saudi supported IS.

    Osborne was a useless Chancellor but he was right that the UK should seek friendship with the rising power of China. Currently there is a Russia/China/Iran axis being created; we cannot afford it to be hostile to the UK.

    The US empire is declining, as did the British; the USA will become increasingly isolationist as it declines. Such interventionist actions as it attempts will only create further problems, as it has in Syria.

    The UK should have a policy independent of, but friendly to, those who will benefit us, as Powell suggested many years ago.

  31. Prigger
    December 16, 2017

    Obviously as an ordinary Brit unaware of just what the “Way of the World” was after World War II, I cannot know why the UK should fancy itself as international policeman and France Italy, Germany and the rest of Europe don’t . I think it is a case of “We won” and the rest of Europe were either on the losing side or got occupied and we liberated them after their armed forces proved ineffectual. Of course we have a big brother in the form of the USA which the Labour, SNP. Plaid Cymru and LibDems are stupid, yes stupid enough to bad-mouth.

  32. Little Englander
    December 16, 2017

    Never mind ‘Defence’ at this time. What happens if we are stuck in Trade talks with the EU (who are CERTAIN to drag this out) for years and years and years and years. Now is not the time to discuss defence – GET ON WITH GETTING US OUT NOW and WHY are we being so deflected OFF course. Nonsense! The whole thing is nonsense with imbeciles in charge of it.

  33. Dennis
    December 16, 2017

    “The UK successfully prevented invasion by the Spanish in 1588” – by luck only due to conditions not in the control of Britain. The Armada was defeated by bad leadership by Sodonia and bad weather – if that had not occurred than Britain would have been defeated.

    As unknown aggressors are always in the future this means a never ending of making war machines as ‘you never know’.A stupid policy as we will end up like the USA which needs never ending war to keep their economy afloat.

    1. Martyn G
      December 16, 2017

      Don’t agree Dennis with your statement “The Armada was defeated by bad leadership by Sodonia and bad weather”. In fact the English fleet – largely composed of ships manned by civilian crews and captains – privateers one might say – were faster, lighter, infinitely more maneuverable than the Spanish behemoths and, overall, better armed. Our tactics were better – especially so when we created havoc amongst the Spanish fleet by sending in fire ships amongst them. It was a running battle, aided in the end by bad weather which scattered the Spanish fleet but the fact is that we outgunned, outmaneuvered and terrified the Spanish to the extent that they were driven past their chosen destination, scattered and lost, as history records.
      So far as your closing para goes, it seems to me that the paramount duty of government is to keep the nation safe, not by venturing into foreign lands but first and foremost by securing our seas and borders. Which is patently not the case since we joined the EU with unlimited and uncontrolled immigration sustained by our governments of all colours….

  34. Richard Taylor
    December 16, 2017

    I don’t think we spend enough on or armed forces and I don’t think what we spend is always spent wisely. But at least we spend it.

    But in discussing our expenditure and commitment to NATO we should look at our colleagues in the EU.

    This article sums it up as well as anything I’ve seen. The persistent under-spend by some of our EU counterparts (US$96 Billion in 2016) exposes what a nerve they have asking for a divorce settlement.

    We should be at NATO, insisting that the 2% is enforced.

    I believe we should play our part, but quite frankly Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, France and others are just taking a defensive handout mostly from the USA and UK.

  35. nigel seymour
    December 16, 2017

    Sir Oliver Letwin has suddenly sprung into action with amend 400 – perhaps the gov should have thought about this long before they were voted down last week. Is it not really ironic and sad that 17.4m voters put their faith in the Cons to get us out of the EU and we now have rebels playing political games. It’s enough to make your hair drop out!!

  36. Miss Brandreth-Jones
    December 16, 2017

    Many thought, nothing like the wars in the past would happen again .Now we see the mix of peoples who are used to living and escaping from areas of conflict. The UK and our near Europe were convinced that we could all live on happily together but everything has changed. Whilst terrorists cause anger and people want retribution ,whilst people take sides and the fury of some ignite hate, we need to have stronger capabilities.We are dealing with people of a low animalistic intelligence from afar who still believe it is glorious to die for a violent cause.

  37. Norman
    December 16, 2017

    Think about what defines freedom, culturally. Then think what the world would have been like without Britain and America, as its defenders. We then begin to see what a serious matter this is, and why its under attack from all sides – most dangerously, from within. How fragile is the peace, and the freedom we have been so privileged to enjoy.

    1. Peter Davies
      December 17, 2017

      Very true

  38. Norman
    December 16, 2017

    Think about what defines freedom, culturally. Then think what the world would have been like without Britain and America, as its defenders. We then begin to see what a serious matter this is! But it is already under attack from within. How fragile the peace, and the freedom we have been so privileged to enjoy!

  39. RossT
    December 16, 2017

    Mr Redwood, it sounds as if you’re softening us up before a massive cut to the size of the Army, perhaps of the order required to reduce it to the Chancellor’s preferred 50,000. What do you think specifically about the Army, its role and size? Do you think we should maintain an Army capable of fielding a full division for major combat operations (or rather, re-attain one, since it can’t current do it)? If we are to do so, it’s going to be expensive; our adversaries kept their eye on the ball over the past 20 years and are increasing potent in this field, while our army is lumbered with obsolete or obsolescent equipment which will take a lot of money to replace. Unless we want, yet again, to commit soldiers to war in equipment and vehicles that will get them killed, the Government needs to think seriously about putting our money where its mouth is.

  40. Backtoback
    December 16, 2017

    So as we have now moved on to phase two of the talks and our future trading quest with the EU..hoping to get the best deal we can..but knowing that however it works out things will never be quite the same again between oursrlves and the EU 27..we are not the giants in the world we once were and so on that basis should be also rethinking our spevific needs for defence and offence policy for well into the future.

    Today we read again that Hammond out in China is talking about the bespoke arrangement again that we will follow but he and others hsve been already told there will be no cherry picking allowed with the EU in any new trade arrangemen..so why do our politicians persist with this nonsense that we will have some overarching say in how things will go with yhe new relationship..i am afraid that in time a lot of people will become terribly disappointed..truth is we will get the best deal that suits the EU27..and any other outcome is very doubtful.. clear?

  41. Javelin
    December 16, 2017

    It’s been 26 hours since I signed the Leave EU petition – and I’ve still not revived a confirmation email.

    I suggest you find out from Number 10 what is going on. There may come a day when you need the petition process to be working efficiently.

  42. Mark B
    December 17, 2017

    Still in moderation !

  43. Peter Davies
    December 17, 2017

    I think much depends on what our future involvent is with the emerging eu defence union is going to be.

    Some in the media say the UK is not signed up, others like veterans for Britain imply we are joining by the back door, as though we are not leaving the eu etc.

    This I assume is unclear, or have I missed something?

    Also as you correctly state, you would have thought that a sense of history should be enough to caution politicians against the running down of our armed forces to the extent that we have the last few years. Threats can emerge very quickly with long procurement and training turnaround times.

  44. Rien Huizer
    December 17, 2017

    Come to think of it, the treat might well be Down Under. UK should prioritize faster bowling.

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