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Does the UK need to spend more on Defence?

November 13, 2018 12:35 PM
By Richard Streatfield


The short answer is no. But what we spend needs to be spent much better.

The truth is that the Defence budget has a Brexit shaped hole. The biggest cost in defence, after skilled professionals, is equipment. In the vast range of investments needed three items stand out; the new aircraft carriers, planes required to fly from them, and replacement for the Trident missile system.

Defence commentators agree that price inflation since 2016 on those items bought in dollars more than matches the extra £1billion allocated for defence in the recent budget. Sterling's fall has driven that.

Inflationary pressure means if we want defence forces of a similar size and capability as we have now, we need to spend what we have much, much better. Inaction will leave service men and women vulnerable because training and equipment for individuals will be sacrificed to fund the large equipment programmes.

When they are called to action again, as history tells us they will be, brave men and women must not die because they lack equipment and training.

Liberal Democrats believe we can spend the money we have much better. We need a sensible look at whether a permanent at sea nuclear deterrent is necessary. Most agree a nuclear deterrent is needed, but the costs of keeping it at sea all the time unbalances the rest of the defence budget.

We need to match our carrier and fighter aircraft capability to the threats. And even as we prepare for what might be a cliff edge Brexit we can work hard with our European partners in NATO to make sure we have access to greater capability than we can afford on our own. Needless to say that would be more effective and offer even greater value inside the EU.

Major Richard Streatfeild MBE is the author of 'Honorable Warriors' , on the war in Afghanistan