Theresa May sparks fears of fresh cuts to Britain’s submarine fleet after questioning their cost

During a stormy meeting with defence bosses two weeks ago, the PM highlighted the vessels’ £4bn a year budget, and demanded to know if it could be reduced.

The remarks to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter left them stunned, senior sources have revealed.

The Royal Navy currently operates seven attack submarines, and four Vanguard class underwater boats that carry Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent.

The underwater fleet is at its smallest in decades.

In 1982 at the height of the Cold War, the navy had 31 submarines.

A No10 order to cut the submarine budget further could see currents boats mothballed or future orders put on hold.

Campaigning Tory MP Johnny Mercer last night warned: “Our submarine capability is very important, especially in countering the Russian threat. We must keep or grow their number not cut them”.

In a speech to RUSI today, former Army officer Mr Mercer will also warn that ministers are badly failing troops on pay and conditions.

Mr Mercer will say: “There can be no doubt that the offer we make as a civilian Government in exchange for Military service to the Nation has changed significantly, and is perhaps worsening now at a faster rate than it ever has done before”.

In a major overhaul, the navy’s Trafalgar hunter-killer subs are in the middle of being replaced by the brand new Astute class.

And the ageing Vanguard class of nuclear bombers will be replaced by four Dreanought class boats.

The huge programme is taking up 10 per cent of the MoD’s annual budget.

The fresh revelation comes after The Sun revealed yesterday that the US defence supremo Jim Mattis has told Britain that its global military prowess is at “risk of erosion” unless it ups spending on the military.

Challenged on the American Secretary of Defense’s warning, Downing Street refused to commit to his request for a significant MoD cash hike.

The PM’s official spokesman insisted that the UK currently has “the biggest defence budget in Europe” and would continue to meet NATO’s 2% of GDP target.

But with France’s recently committing to raise its defence spending, No10 would not commit to outspending the French in the future.

The PM’s official spokesman would only say: “In terms of ongoing funding commitments I can only speak for the UK, but you can see what they are”.



 

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