‘Shambles!’ Boris Johnson’s prioritising of HS2 over Royal Navy a ‘disgrace’, says expert

Iain Ballantyne, editor of WARSHIPS International Fleet Review, launched a caustic diatribe against the Prime Minister after Express.co.uk readers reacted with anger when it was revealed the nation’s navy is now smaller than that of Italy, with the number of frigates and destroyers in operation having fallen to just 15. This is turn comes after Mr Johnson, in a joint letter also signed by then-Chancellor Sajid Javid, wrote to Government departments – including the Ministry of Defence – to order budget cuts of five percent, stressing his determination to focus on “the things which matter most: strengthening our NHS; making our streets safer; and levelling up opportunity across the country”.

However, his plans did not impress Mr Ballantyne, who told Express.co.uk it was critical for the Government to find a way of protecting the nation against emerging threats, such as cyber-warfare, without neglecting traditional areas.

He said: “The Johnson government looks like it is going to further hollow out the Royal Navy, which is already in a mess with too few ships, suffering from chronic lack of investment in combat capabilities for the few vessels it does have, while struggling to find the crews necessary to send them to sea.”

Referring to Britain’s two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, built at a combined cost of £6.2billion, Mr Ballantyne said: “Beyond the shiny new carriers, there are a lot of problems in the over-stretched under-funded Royal Navy. 

“For example, the programme to replace frigates and submarines is sluggish and not delivering enough vessels, there are major faults in the destroyers which are taking years to repair, the frigates are getting very old and only some of them are fully capable of hunting and killing submarines.”

Express.co.uk’s poll yesterday delivered an emphatic verdict, with 90 percent of 3,939 voters voicing their concern at the situation, which one branded a national disgrace – and the news came as no surprise to Mr Ballantyne.

He said: “It is a shambles and instead launching a serious defence review to put right the ills, the Johnson government looks likely to double down on the damage done by the Cameron-Clegg defence review of 2010, which accelerated the pace of decline.”

And he was equally scathing about the decision to give the green light to HS2, the high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham, which is likely to cost in excess of £100billion.

He added: “It is an outrage that the new Conservative government is investing massive amounts of money in white elephants like HS2 while about to impose cuts that will end the Royal Navy’s position as one of the leading navies able to reinforce trade and defence alliances, also safeguarding the nation’s global interests and millions of UK citizens who lives overseas.

“The myopic statements coming from defence ministers, claiming ‘political bravery’ for getting rid of ‘sunset platforms’ are just the latest example of politico-speak nonsense.

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“The politicians have lost the Defence plot and are using smoke and mirrors to try and excuse their inability to connect a proper review, plus their sheer ignorance of the threat reality at sea is staggering.

“Nobody would deny that investment in cyber warfare capabilities and drones are essential, but the UK’s potential foes are managing that while investing in the naval hardware the UK Govt seems intent in cutting.”

Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s special adviser, is believed to be overseeing a wide-ranging Strategic Defence and Security Review targeting waste within the military, which is likely to set alarm bells ringing among top brass.

In a blog published in March, Mr Cummings wrote: “The officials in charge of multi-billion processes are mostly mediocre, often appalling. “In the MoD corruption adds to the problems.”

The review was confirmed last month, with Mr Johnson’s official spokesman saying: “This will ensure we are making the best use of spending to ensure all our security forces are ahead of hostile powers, terrorists and organised crime.”

However, an analysis published on the website of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) warned there was no room for mistakes.

Authors Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon, Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham, Major General Jonathan Shaw, Antony Hichens, said: “The parliamentary majority the current government enjoys means that it has a good chance to be in power for not one but two consecutive electoral terms, so mistakes made in any review could come back to haunt the Johnson government for the rest of this decade.

“Given Cummings’ desire for accountability in government, it is therefore very much in his – as well as the Government’s – interests to get this right.”

One politician who will be keeping a close eye on proceedings is MP Mark Francois, who told Express.co.uk last month: “I and lots of other people are going to watch that very closely.

“I start from a very straightforward position. As the son of a D-Day veteran, as somebody who has served in the Ministry of Defence, in the reserve forces, but not the regular forces, it is the first duty of Government above all others is the defence of the realm.”

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