Peter Hoskin

A totemic austerity measure

A totemic austerity measure
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As austerity measures go, the plan to share aircraft carriers with France is totemic stuff. Not only could it save the Exchequer a heap of cash – by reducing the need for two replacement carriers – but it also says a lot about how our government wants to operate in the world: multilaterally, flexibly and, perhaps, with less emphasis on military force. Divvying up one's navy with another country does not suggest a strident foreign policy. Indeed, future operations would have to be planned and conducted with the aid of phonecalls to Paris.

Of course, this will likely be a controversial move. There are issues of national sovereignty at play – aggravated by the threat of job losses at British shipyards – and that's before we get onto how this partnership might work in practice, in the face of divergent strategic interests. But I'm sure the government will respond that this approach is more cost effective. After all, as the Sun's coverage points out, "there are periods when both ageing British vessels – HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious – are in dock." The new arrangement would ensure that, between us, France and Britain would always have one carrier ghosting across open water.

Whether sensible or no', this measure will reinforce worries that the MoD is taking a major pummelling from the spending review, and all during a time of war. So I'd be surprised if we don't start to hear more about what the the armed forces are going to be given by the government, as well as what they are expected to sacrifice.