UK is ‘Free-Loading’ Off U.S. for Defence Say Tory MPs

Reuters/Luke MacGregor

The government is under fire from its own MPs for being ‘blind’ to the threats Britain faces from abroad and refusing to commit to spend two per cent of GDP on defence.

MPs including former Army captain John Baron accused the coalition of free-loading off the US and said the UK was ‘ignoring the lessons of history at our peril’, the Daily Mail reports.

As a ceremony takes place in St Paul’s Cathedral to commemorate those who lost their lives and who were seriously injured fighting in Afghanistan, the Tory MP said the UK had been distracted from real threats by ‘misguided military interventions’.

The Basildon and Billericay MP said claims that Britain boasts the world’s fifth largest defence budget ‘rings hollow’ amid the slashing of funding and service personnel numbers.

The country has been left without an aircraft carrier following the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review while the European President Jean-Claude Juncker has brought the prospect of an EU Army to the forefront following an interview with Die Welt newspaper.

And it backs concerns raised by another Tory MP and former RAF Flight Lieutenant Steve Baker who said in an interview with Brietbart London that: “If we only have small numbers of aeroplanes then I think that is an implicit admission that we only ever expect to fight alongside the Americans.”

Referring to decisions made over the number and type of aircraft in Britain’s Armed Forces he said: “If we are fighting asymmetric warfare against people with only very simple weapons systems it’s pretty clear we don’t need the most advanced weaponry. The reason to have that is in order to be flexible to deal with whatever comes but it is an admission that we are not expecting to go to war alone.”

Mr Baron said that “falling defence budgets across Nato have emboldened the Russian president, who has concluded that the heart has gone out of the alliance. This is dangerous.”

And he called on the Government to spend 3 percent of GDP on defence, calling it ‘nonsense’ that Britain should be on a spending path which would put the foreign aid budget on par with national defence in 15 years.

The comments were made during a motion in Parliament yesterday to set the defence budget at 2 per cent of national income in law – throwing down the gauntlet to David Cameron in the run up to the General Election.

A total of 37 MPs, most of them Tories, backed the motion which has no legal force but does highlight the feelings of MPs on emotive or controversial issues.

The Chairman of the defence select committee, Rory Stewart, said that Britain was acting like a ‘freeloader’ towards the Americans because they expected the US to fill in any gaps in their defence equipment or numbers.

‘These threats are real. The world is genuinely becoming more dangerous, and Britain cannot be a freeloader,” he told MPs.

“People stand up and list all the different kit that we have bought, but they do not intend ever to use it.”

Mr Baron, who warned that Britain now faced a significant threat from countries such as Russia, said the Government would need to look at upgrading ballistic missiles, upgrading elite units and ensuring soldiers have adequate protection against chemical weapons.

A study by the House of Commons library revealed that current spending on defence would represent only 1.87 per cent of GDP next year, at the same time as foreign aid, which has been slammed as wasting tax payers money, is being ring fenced.

Fellow MP Simon Reevell condemned Mr Cameron’s suggestion that spending on the intelligence services, which work closely with the Home Office and are in that chain of command, would could towards defence spending. He said the idea was “kindergarten economics.”

And Tory MP for  Filton and Bradley Stoke, Jack Lopresti,  said Iraq and Afghanistan showed ‘what happens when you try and deploy troops abroad on the cheap, without being properly equipped’.