The former commander of the UK’s Maritime Forces has said Britain is in danger of losing its status as a “credible military power”. Rear Admiral Alex Burton told the BBC that years of budget cuts and rising military threats meant the defence budget needed to be increased urgently.
He said the ability to “fight and win on the front line” was being affected. And, if fresh spending wasn’t announced, Britain would be morally poorer on the world stage. His comments come 24 hours before the Chancellor’s Spring Statement on the state of the public finances. And the day after Philip Hammond said that there was “light” at the end of the austerity tunnel – possibly leaving some more headroom for spending increases.
Rear Admiral Burton, who left the armed forces last autumn, told me: “If you do not spend more on defence than we currently are as a percentage of GDP, then we put at risk the fact that we are currently a credible military power, and from that we put at risk our position on the global stage.”
He said that military threats were increasing from countries like Russia, from cyber warfare and from terrorist organisations.
Rear Admiral Burton, who was also NATO commander in charge of “high readiness” naval forces, argued that with Britain preparing to leave the European Union it was vital that defence spending was raised to at least 2.5% of GDP to support global trade.