Mark Collins – Another BREXIT “Oopsie”: UK Defence Spending

More incredible shrinking on the way? What about the British commitment (President Obama was already worried) to meet the NATO goal of two percent of GDP for defence?

Eu referendum: Defence spending cuts expected in wake of Brexit vote

Defence spending and planning is now expected to come under severe pressure as a result of the Brexit vote, with a growing possibility of cuts and a new review once a new government is installed in the autumn.

Defence and security featured episodically in the Brexit debate, mostly in issues such as an EU European army and the need for more security forces for stopping illegal migrant trafficking.

Now the slide of the pound against the dollar will mean a number of big defence programmes will have to be scrutinised. “Considering that about 40 per cent of the big defence programmes are tied to the dollar, they are going to have to think hard,” says the pre-eminent independent analyst Francis Tusa.

Major aircraft programmes like the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II for the aircraft carriers [at the moment the government is only firmly committed to 42 fighters out of a planned eventual buy of 138] and plans for the upgrade and replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent system will be under examination…

Even before Brexit there was a growing belief that the defence budget — at roughly £34 billion a year — was overstretched, and would need revising.

Large naval building programmes such as the two aircraft carriers now being completed at Rosyth and the requirement for a new frigate, the Type 26, currently costed at £650 million each, are coming under pressure – the initial plan for 13 of the new frigates has now been cut to eight [emphasis added, more here–the design is a possibility for the RCN’s new Canadian Surface Combatants, see here; their design will be foreign, scroll down at first quote here].

This autumn the government was due to sign initial contracts for the main building phase for the four large submarines and new warhead for the Trident nuclear ballistic missile programme. This has now been blown off course by Brexit and may not take place till next year as Trident renewal will have to be debated and approved by parliament.

Crispin Blunt, chairman of the influential Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons recently published his estimate that the Trident renewal programme could cost £182 billion at today’s prices for a 32 year programme beginning in 2028 – the date the present Vanguard nuclear submarines are due out of service.

“At that price, I think it’s pretty unaffordable,” Blunt has said.

Lots more, note the latter half:

Defence Implications of Brexit – Further Thoughts

Then there’s this, with that submarine nuclear missile deterrent based in nuclear-averse and maybe UK-exiting Scotland:

Brexit could put future of Britain’s only nuclear sub base in doubt

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


3 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Another BREXIT “Oopsie”: UK Defence Spending”

  1. And what about the air defence of northern Great Britain, with increasingly aggressive Russian bomber flights in mind (nice photo at link below)?

    Could the RAF base in Scotland be kept? The Scots are most unlikely to be able or willing to pay for such a fighter force themselves:

    The UK bases its Typhoons at RAF Coningsby in England (Quick reaction Alert [QRA] South) and at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland (QRA North)…”

    Mark Collins

  2. At DID’s “Rapid Fire”, further links at original:

    Following the British public’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) following its “Brexit” referendum, analysts and industry now have to wonder on the implications on the country’s defense and aerospace sector. With NATO, not the EU considered the bedrock of European defence and security IHS Janes proposes external link the UK vote will overall be fairly balanced and relatively limited for both the UK and the rest of the EU. Much, however, depends upon the way Europe reacts to the event. Furthermore, a potential second Independence referendum in Scotland, a population predominantly in favor of the EU, could have a profound effect external link on the UK’s military capabilities, not least over the question of the future of the nuclear submarine base at Faslane, Scotland…”

    Mark Collins

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