Discussion around the level of defence spending over the next Parliament continued to attract media coverage over the weekend and into the start of this week. A report in The Financial Times suggested that senior military figures were not expecting the next government to maintain spending at 2% of GDP. According to independent defence analysts quoted in the report, the UK economy is expected to grow 12% in the next Parliament which would mean MOD spending £20bn more on defence than it currently plans to if the 2% of GDP rate was continued.
Today’s coverage focuses on a report by Professor Malcolm Chalmers of RUSI which speculates that the Army could be cut further with budgets potentially cut by up to 10% in the next parliament. The report suggests that because of commitments to programmes such as the new aircraft carriers and Joint Strike Fighter, the Army could face the brunt of the budgetary pressure.
However, the Prime Minister has previously said that he does not want to see our regular armed services reduced below the level that they are now and remains committed to growing the Reserves to 35,000.
The Government has said the UK continues to deliver the second largest defence budget in NATO and the largest in the EU and is committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence with decisions on spending after the financial year 2015/16 to be determined in the next spending review.
“Over the next decade, the Government has committed to spending £163 billion on equipment and equipment support to keep Britain safe. That includes new strike fighters; more surveillance aircraft; hunter killer submarines; two aircraft carriers; and the most advanced armoured vehicles.
The Defence Secretary’s announcement that the UK is to provide a further package of non-lethal military equipment worth £850,000 to the Ukrainian government received some attention.
Making the announcement, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
“The UK is committed to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s aggression.
“This gift of non-lethal equipment is designed to prevent further Ukrainian fatalities and casualties and to help improve situational awareness on the ground. Our overall aim is to strengthen the defensive capability of the Ukrainian armed forces and build the resilience that they need.”
Various outlets covered comments made by the EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, calling for the creation of an EU army. Mr Juncker said such an army would restore the European Union's foreign policy standing and show it is serious about defending its values, suggesting destabilising Russian military action in the east of Ukraine had made the case for a European combined force more compelling.
In response, a UK Government spokesman said:
"Our position is crystal clear that defence is a national, not an EU responsibility and that there is no prospect of that position changing and no prospect of a European army."
Cyprus bird poaching
The Guardian reported on claims that almost one million birds were poached on a British base in Cyprus, according to a wildlife charity endorsed by the RSPB. The RSPB called on the MOD to do more to tackle poaching after a report alleged that up to 15,000 birds were poached from Dhekelia each day in the autumn migration.
But the MoD rejected the RSPB’s findings and questioned the methodology of the survey:
“We do not accept the report’s unverified claims about loss of bird life during this period, which was based upon data collected from a very short period,” said an MoD spokeswoman.
“We are committed to tackling poaching which is why we arrested nearly 50 poachers and seized 450 nets and 286 piece of poaching equipment during the last migration period. When we catch poachers we can fine them €17,000 [£12,000], or send them to prison for up to three years. We continue to work with local organisations to discuss how we can work as effectively as possible.”