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Serious Fears Voiced Over Britain's Future Military Might After Brexit

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UK military - Sputnik International
Britain will have to spend considerable sums of money bolstering its defense and military capabilities after it has finally exited the European Union although it will have to spend it wisely and be more realistic about its future role in world affairs, a leading analyst has warned.

The UK will likely have to make choices based on a realistic assessment of what a more isolated Britain will need despite having to spend "eye-watering" figures securing its borders from attack.

In an interview, Anthony Glees, professor of politics at the University of Buckingham, and director of its Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, said the UK would no longer need to be 'punching above our weight' because there is no call for it.

"I myself think this is all most undesirable. I remain a Remainer and I'd like to see Britain leading Europe when it comes to defence, not leaving it. We were willing, like the French, to get involved. I don't think this will be the way of our future," he told Sputnik.

The professor said it boils down to the question of what Britain can afford when it comes to public spending, and where it has little or no choice when spending taxpayers' cash.

"Viewed one way, defence spending is a necessity, not a matter of choice. Viewed another way, however, the UK does have a choice because what we spend on our defence has to be directly linked to the kind of Britain we are set to become, and the nature of the threats to our security that this new Britain will face," he said.

"What we know is that the UK's defence budget for 2018 is £36 billion (US$50.1 billion) but that this does not include the cost of five new frigates or even a realistic estimate of the cost of the 138 F-35 fighters we've ordered. We think there is a 'black hole' in our defence budget of £28 billion (US$39 billion) over the next 10 years," the professor explained.

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Since Brexit there has also been slide in the value of the pound, he continued, this comes on top of the fact that the UK has been strapped for cash for some time, having only slowly under former chancellor George Osborne started to climb back out of the country's deep indebtedness.

"We have also acquired many new calls on our spending — Michael Gove promised British farmers £10 billion in subsidies up to 2024 (despite the Brexit campaign promising an end to subsidies for farmers). Our National Health Service needs an immediate injection of £30 billion, the size in its deficit, or it will have to get rid of nurses, for example, 42,000 of them more or less at once," he continued.

"To put this figure into a defense context, the cost (we think) of the F-35 fighters will be £283 billion (US$393 billion). In short Britain has got to cut its coat according to its cloth, and we no longer have much cloth," the professor admitted.

Warning the UK will have less money to spend on security, considered a core value of any government, it must spend it more intelligently — and in keeping with Britain's declining role in world affairs, the defense expert said. The country will also have to spend more money in newer areas, particularly protecting cyber space from incursions, attacks and possibly even a cyber war.

His comments come as another UK defense expert warned hard decisions over the country's military are being systemically ignored and postponed as a direct result of the British government's fixation over securing a reasonable Brexit deal.

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Professor Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director general of the London-based think-tank, the Royal United Services Institute, said the UK's military reputation overseas is now being seriously eroded as vital decisions over its defense budget are being delayed while negotiations take place surrounding Britain's departure from the European bloc stumble on.

In a paper published on Tuesday, February 6, he warned over the British government's decision to delay crucial defense budget moves that were originally intended to be taken in January have now been put back until this summer at the earliest.

Professor Chalmers, a government adviser on national security strategy, said: "The government is increasingly perceived to be unable to make difficult decisions, distracted by Brexit and unable to play an international role that is commensurate with the resources it devotes to this purpose."

He warned: "The longer this policy paralysis continues, the greater the risk to the UK's reputation as a reliable ally, and the stronger the (unfair) perception that it is no longer capable of being a serious security player. With talks on the EU's future relationship with the UK approaching a critical moment, this is not a helpful message."

In his 20-page report, Decision Time: The National Security Capability Review 2017-2018 and Defence, Chalmers predicts the review, presently being undertaken by the UK government,  could lead to fresh investment in new technologies relevant to defence such as artificial intelligence, improved communications, cyber and electronic warfare, and better protection against missiles.

He supported also recent warnings given from UK defence ministers and military chiefs surrounding a potential threat posed by Russia, particularly in the use of social media and cyber espionage.

The views and opinions expressed by Anthony Glees are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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