A “pessimistic” forecast by leading defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has shown a lack of interest in defence matters by all major UK political parties means the size of the Army will likely contract in the next parliament to a point not seen for centuries.
The projected force size of 50,000 is only slightly larger than the 45,000 men who policed the nascent British Empire of North America, the West Indies, and the Bengal in the 1770’s, which despite heavy reliance on private armies and mercenaries lost the thirteen colonies of North America to French-backed rebelling colonists. This significantly reduced force is expected to be realised by another ten percent cut in defence spending anticipated in the next parliament.
The report suggests that no matter who wins May’s general election, heavy cuts to the already diminished armed forces are inevitable, as none of the main parties have expressed any serious interest in protecting them from cuts, preferring instead to ring-fence international development aid and health spending. The possible cuts could make another 45,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and support staff redundant, leaving the total defence strength of all three services at just 115,000.
Several members of the government have refused to support defence spending when cornered recently, with the prime minister and foreign secretary dodging the question.
Although UKIP is likely to make a pledge to grow defence spending in its election manifesto and is expected to do well, the chances of a UKIP-led government remain small and influence over the military budget would rely on UKIP entering a coalition government. UKIP leader Nigel Farage ruled out the possibility of a coalition last month, instead supporting a “confidence and supply” deal to allow a functioning government while guaranteeing an EU referendum. Farage said: “We will not enter a coalition, no matter how tempting ministerial cars may be.
“We will only do a deal with anyone on the condition that there is an in/out referendum on the EU”.
The scenario is one of two presented by the think tank, which outlines the future of British defence in worst and best case scenarios. The future looks bleak for soldiers wishing to avoid unemployment even in the best case, according to the think-tank, as even if the major parties went through with their most generous plans, 15,000 would still be made redundant.