David Blackburn

Self-interested Britain

Self-interested Britain
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Liam Fox is in the most invidious position. It is hard enough to secure significant budget cuts against vested interests that maintain anti-competitive procurement; and being at war deepens the task. Cuts of 10 to 20 percent must be made but at the same time Fox acknowledges, in an interview with the Telegraph, that:

‘We have to keep sufficient land forces to hold territory if required, we have got to maintain enough maritime power and we have got to maintain air power to maintain air superiority.’

Like all defence secretaries, Fox is trying to contain the warring service chiefs, their temperaments exacerbated by the coming cuts. Fox is even handed. There are 25,000 men and a large number of tanks in Germany, Fox says:

‘We have to look at where we think the real risks will come from, where the real threats will come from and we need to deal with that accordingly. The Russians are not going to come over the European plain any day soon.’

Fox favours the Navy, and with good reason - it allows Britain to go where it pleases and strike where it pleases. But Fox reminds the Navy that a gunboat is often more effective than a capital ship:

‘If I had a criticism of the Navy it is that it’s been too centred on a high specification end and not had sufficient platform numbers (ships) in a world that requires presence.’

Without pre-empting the defence review, Fox is indicating that British defence and foreign policy ambitions will lessen, but Britain will still have the capability punch above its weight when necessary. David Cameron’s conception of the special relationship reinforced that sense. The liberal interventionism which took Britain into Iraq has passed; self-interested Britain may be the creed of the future.