PM ‘faces problem’ on defence cuts

Published: Sunday 1st March 2015 by The News Editor

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David Cameron could face a “political problem” within his own party if he disregards a Nato target and cuts defence spending below 2% of GDP, a Conservative former defence secretary has said.

Liam Fox said many Tory MPs would find it “hard to swallow” if the Prime Minister allowed defence spending to fall below the target, while maintaining a pledge to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid.

Ministers are under increasing pressure from Tory MPs and senior military figures to commit Britain to meeting the Nato target to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence beyond 2016.

With deep cuts to Whitehall budgets to continue after May’s general election, Chancellor George Osborne is reported to have warned privately that it may fall below that level.

Dr Fox warned against cutting defence spending at a time when international security is deteriorating and “one miscalculation” with respect to Russian aggression in eastern Europe could lead to conflict with Nato.

He told BBC1’s Sunday Politics: “I think this would be a political problem inside the Conservative Party because I think that people feel that the Government’s first duty is the protection of the United Kingdom and its citizens.

“We have to do what we need to make that happen.

“And I think that we have a commitment to Nato as part of our international treaty obligations to spend that 2%.

“I think to say that we were willing to guarantee a proportion of GDP for international aid, but not willing to implement our commitments in terms of defence, I think a lot of Conservatives would find that difficult to swallow.

“Especially at a time when you can see the international security environment is deteriorating.

“What is happening at the moment, for example with Putin’s Russia, is really only one miscalculation away from potentially creating an Article 5 crisis that brings conflict to the European continent.”

Published: Sunday 1st March 2015 by The News Editor

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