Army cuts and recruitment crash ‘have left the UK unable to tackle crises’, ministers warned
- Recruitment for the British Army has crashed by more than a fifth in the last year
- The drop falls in line with plans to reduce the Army to just 73,000 troops by 2025
- Government is told it risks appearing ‘arrogant and unwilling to learn lessons’
- Russian invasion and Taliban takeover are examples Britain was ‘not prepared’
Ministers have been urged to scrap plans for more defence cuts after a collapse in army recruitment left Britain unable to tackle ‘major international crises’.
Army recruiting has crashed by more than a fifth in the last year, in line with plans to reduce the Army to just 73,000 troops by 2025 – its smallest size since the Napoleonic era.
Last night, the government was told it risks looking ‘arrogant and unwilling to learn lessons’ should ministers press ahead with cuts at a time of ‘open war’ in Europe.
A report by the Commons defence committee warned that Russia’s invasion and the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, have demonstrated the UK was ‘manifestly not prepared for major international crises’.
The committee’s chairman Tobias Ellwood said: ‘It is clear now is not the time for personnel cuts or budget shortfalls in our armed forces.
A report by the Commons defence committee warned that the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan showed the UK was ‘manifestly not prepared for major international crises’. Pictured: British soldiers in Kabul in August last year
‘In these uncertain times our capabilities and readiness must be ironclad. We need to spend more and spend it wisely.
‘Anything less would be denial of the reality we face.’
Squaddie numbers have been in freefall since 2010, when the Army’s fulltime strength was 100,000. This year it is just 77,190.
A further 4,000 posts will be removed in the next three years. As no soldiers are expected to be sacked, the required reduction will be achieved by enlisting fewer recruits.
Figures obtained by Labour reveal Army recruitment has collapsed across the country, with the South West and the East of England seeing the biggest falls in the last year, of 35 per cent.
Last night shadow defence secretary John Healey accused the government of ‘weakening’ the UK’s armed forces when the UK is facing greater threats and greater obligations to Nato.
The Armed Forces are also being called upon to provide troops to support other public services, such as the NHS during the pandemic and UK Border Force anti-migrant operations in the Channel.
In a recent speech the head of the Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders, suggested he agreed with those calling for proposed cuts to the Army being reversed.
Sir Patrick told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) military think tank that while technology was revolutionising warfare, certain tasks could only be performed by soldiers.
But, for the time being, the MOD remains committed to lowering its manning levels.
Tory MP Tobias Ellwood (pictured) said: ‘It is clear now is not the time for personnel cuts or budget shortfalls in our armed forces’
In the years ahead UK defence spending is also predicted to fall, with what Britain spends on its military falling below the Nato target of 2 per cent of GDP.
Such a reduction in investment would also see the UK going from being Europe’s biggest defence spender to the eighth, as a percentage of GDP.
Last night, the Defence Secretary warned that, in the face of rising threats, the UK must commit to increasing defence spending by tens of billions of pounds.
Ben Wallace’s comments were significant as he is yet to back either of the candidates hoping to become the next Prime Minister.
He told Sky News: ‘We are forecast to be below 2 per cent probably by 2026. We are going down and will carry on falling.’
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has pledged to increase UK defence spending to 3 per cent of GSP if she is appointed.
Rishi Sunak has been less explicit about spending commitments, suggesting he was opposed to ‘arbitrary targets’.
Last night, a MOD spokesperson said: ‘The Army met 98 per cent of its recruitment target for regular soldiers and 100 per cent of its target for regular officers last year. It continues to have the people needed to fulfil all its operational commitments.
‘The Army will have over 100,000 personnel made up of a trained Regular Army of 73,000 and a total Army Reserve of over 30,000.’