PMQs: Boris Johnson clashes with Starmer over UK Armed Forces
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During Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) today, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer lashed out at the Prime Minister’s 2019 election pledge to maintain the Army’s size. His comments came after this week’s defence review found numbers would fall by 10,000 as part of Government plans.
Now, former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has attacked Mr Johnson and his Government claiming they have “weakened us on the world stage”.
Mr Farage tweeted: “When the Tories came to power there were over 100,000 soldiers in the British Army.
“Now we are heading towards 70,000.
“They have broken their promises and weakened us on the world stage.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed this week the size of the Army will dramatically be reduced to 72,500 soldiers by 2025 as part of an overhaul of the Armed Services.
He said the move towards drones and cyber warfare means there is an “increased deployability and technological advantage” for Britain.
Mr Wallace said on Monday: “I have therefore taken the decision to reduce the size of the Army from today’s current strength of 76,500 trained personnel to 72,500 by 2025.”
Ahead of the 2019 election, the Conservative manifesto – which did not mention troop numbers – pledged to “continue to exceed the Nato target of spending two percent of GDP on defence”.
It also vowed to “increase the budget by at least 0.5 percent above inflation every year of the new Parliament”.
However, during the manifesto launch, Mr Johnson said the Conservatives would “not be cutting our Armed Services in any form”.
During PMQs today, Mr Johnson insisted his Government had “kept our promise” and promised there would be “no redundancies”.
Replying to Sir Keir, Mr Johnson said: “There will be no redundancies, and if you include reserves, we are even keeping the Army at 100,000.
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“But on top of that, we are doing what is needed to modernise our Armed Forces, taking them into the 21st Century.
“We are doing all the difficult things Labour shirked during their time in office.”
Sir Keir hit back at Mr Johnson’s claims Labour had been “consistently weak on protecting this country”.
He said: “What’s weaker is making a promise to our Armed Forces just before the election, then breaking it and not being prepared to admit it – not have the courage to admit it.”
However, Mr Johnson said his party were “pro-vax, low tax and when it comes to defence, we’ve got your backs”.
This reduction in the number of Armed Forces personnel comes after Mr Wallace secured an above-inflation rise for the Ministry of Defence’s budget in November last year.
The green light from Chancellor Rishi Sunak meant costly equipment programmes can go ahead as well as no cuts to the military.
Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the news and said post-Brexit Britain will bring its “world-class armed forces”.
He tweeted: “Diplomacy is often cold-hearted and transactional so post-Brexit we will need to have something to bring to the table.
“What better than our world-class armed forces? Great news!”
Express.co.uk approached the Ministry of Defence for a comment.
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