The idea of a war between Spain and the UK over Gibraltar is ridiculous. Politicians on both sides may enjoy blustering about this issue but it would never happen. However, this non-debate does highlight a much more serious question – if a war broke out tomorrow, would our Armed Forces be capable of defending Britain’s territory?
Savage cut after savage cut (many of the worst under David Cameron) have dramatically reduced the size and effectiveness of our Armed Forces. I also worry that we lack an effective long-term defence plan and that decisions are made based on short term and financial considerations. Politicians seeking re-election are often tempted into stopgap measures, knowing they won’t still be in office when bigger problems hit.
For example, the government (eventually) decided to invest in some new aircraft carriers (which are electorally popular, unlike for example anti-submarine vessels) but are we actually in a position to use these effectively? Does the Royal Navy have the resources to put together a true carrier squadron? If they somehow managed to scrape one together what impact would this have on operations in other areas of the world? The UK should have aircraft carriers, but if we invest in this we must ensure that we have a surface fleet capable of protecting and utilising them – otherwise they are good for little more than selfies on Conservative Party election materials.
Nor is it just our Royal Navy; the Army and RAF are also critically underfunded, undermanned and lack many basic resources – just last week Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was discussing the possibility of huge cuts to the Royal Marines.
MPs have underinvested in our Armed Forces for decades, but it takes a lot of nerve to make an implicit threat of war in the same week that you are also planning the next round of savage cuts.
Jonathan Arnott MEP
UKIP, North East