Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond told Prime Minister Theresa May that Britain can make do with only 50,000 soldiers at a meeting about defence cuts, it has been claimed.
‘Remainer Phil’ insisted that the Armed Forces could make the cut from its current standing strength of 78,000 soldiers because this greatly reduced number would be sufficient for the Army to form a division to fight in a war.
The Chancellor made the assertion in a heated exchange with former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon at 10 Downing Street recently, according to The Sun.
The figure floated by Hammond would render Britain’s Army less than half the size of France’s, and smaller than those of Italy, Spain, and even Germany, notes the newspaper.
Senior defence figures said on Monday that with a drop so large in its standing strength, the Armed Forces could only sustain a war effort for a period of around six months.
Former Army officer Johnny Mercer, now a Conservative MP, reacted angrily to the news, remarking that the chancellor must be “deluded” to believe the Armed Forces could cope with such a large reduction in troop numbers.
“We couldn’t even fulfil our NATO commitments with an Army to 50,000, let alone mount a sustained defence of our nation or its dependent territories,” he said.
“The Chancellor also appears to have forgotten that reducing the number of our troops by any number would completely breach our election manifesto promise to maintain force levels made only in June.”
Top U.S. General Warns UK Military Must Not Get ‘Any Smaller’
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 10, 2017
On Saturday, Hammond’s allies accused new Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson of stirring up a backbench rebellion after he warned that a new round of defence cuts could see 1,000 Royal Marines sacked, and Army numbers fall below 70,000 soldiers.
The rumours have even led to reports that Royal Marines may be forced to operate from French warships — a move critics suggest is part of a wider effort to run down British forces so they cannot operate independently and are forced to integrate into an EU-led European Army.
EU members sign military defence pact – is the prospect of a full-blown EU army still a "dangerous fantasy", Clegg? https://t.co/o3U8I6DejP
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 13, 2017
Calling the claims “bogus”, one ally of the Chancellor told the Daily Mail: “We think Williamson is manipulating the party to put pressure on us by encouraging backbenchers to protest – so he can claim victory and win the respect of the Forces chiefs.”
News of the row, which took place as the Ministry of Defence attempts to cut £20 billion of spending, comes as it was revealed that money from Britain’s ring-fenced foreign aid budget was being spent funding jihadists in Syria with ties to al-Qaeda, the notorious Islamic extremist outfit responsible for deadly terror attacks in the West.