By Margaret Beckett
Difficult choices on the UK’s national security await the UK’s new Prime Minister.
Trump, Brexit, China, Cyber – recent reports from my Committee on the National Security Strategy revealed a Government shying away from major challenges.
Now our follow-up inquiry on last year’s review of national security and defence has confirmed these conclusions and says the UK faces even starker challenges.
The world is changing. Our key relationship with the United States, the EU and China are increasingly uncertain.
As the UK prepares to leave the EU and stand on our own, Government must be canny and take a more sure-footed approach.
The Government talks a better game than it plays on national security.
The ‘Global Britain’ slogan is meaningless given the underfunding of defence and diplomacy.
The Foreign Office has been hollowed out over the past four decades.
The UK’s long-term plan for defence, set in 2015, was never affordable within the budget allocated to it.
And our defence funding model is broken.
Government has persistently failed to provide enough money to fund its ambitions for defence capabilities. The Ministry of Defence has struggled to manage its budget effectively.
We need soldiers, sailors, pilots and conventional equipment.
But our adversaries are developing more hi-tech weaponry and use methods such as cyber-attacks and information warfare to avoid running the risk of outright war.
So we also need more investment in technology and innovation.
Both Tory leadership hopefuls have made promises ranging from tax cuts to defence.
Now is the time to start an honest, national conversation about how ambitious the UK should be as a global player, how much we are wiling to tolerate national security risks, and how much money the Government is willing to commit to these ends.
The UK’s national security cannot be sidelined by Brexit. It should be at the top of the new Prime Minister’s agenda.
- Margaret Beckett MP chairs the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy.