‘Not too late’ Rishi Sunak considers reversing armed forces cut after invasion of Ukraine
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MPs believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer could use his Spring Statement on March 23 to increase defence spending, the Sun has revealed. A senior source told the tabloid it is not “too late” to reverse the decision.
The source said: “Critically, it’s only been talked about, nothing has actually been cut yet so it’s not too late.”
The news comes after it was reported the UK Government could be open to axing plans to make cuts to the armed forces.
Last year, plans were unveiled to cut the armed forces by an additional 10,000 troops to 72,500, which is the smallest the army has been since 1714.
The move would have also looked to focus on electronic warfare and drones.
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Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey warned at the time that while “threats to Britain are increasing” the plan was for “fewer troops, fewer ships, fewer planes, over the next few years”.
However, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has since suggested Boris Johnson’s Government is open to a U-turn on their previous announcement.
He told the Telegraph the Prime Minister “has always been open” to revisiting defence funding “if the threat changes”.
Mr Wallace added: “And of course, we look at those funding levels.”
But the Sun has reported that allies of Mr Sunak have suggested that no formal request to reverse the troop cuts has been made.
The Chancellor will instead study any proposal in light of the situation in Ukraine.
A Treasury source said: “We are pulling out all the stops to tighten the screw on Putin, as well as giving a massive boost to defence spending and security to the tune of £24 billion.”
However, Labour’s Mr Healey anticipates a “big boost to defence” in the Spring Statement.
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Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also heaped the pressure on the Government during a visit to Portsmouth.
Sir Ed said: “We’ve been calling for a reversal on some of the defence cuts made by the Conservatives for a little while now.
“But now we’ve seen the horror of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine I just hope the Government is going to wake up and reverse the cuts to the army – the 10,000 cuts to troop numbers – and also really get the investment in the Royal Navy going, which is critical for our country’s security and defence and has big implications for places like Portsmouth.”
Mr Sunak is expected to make his Spring Statement rather significant amid growing concerns about the cost of living crisis.
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