HMS Queen Elizabeth

The Royal Navy in its current form is unable to protect Britain's new aircraft carriers and would have to "go home and sit in a base" in any conflict with a major nation, a Tory MP has said.

Former soldier Bob Seely said any admiral would admit to the carriers' vulnerability given the lack of surface ships in the Navy's fleet.

Britain's new £3.1 billion carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was accepted into the Royal Navy fleet last month and will be followed by sister ship the HMS Prince of Wales in the coming years.

However, the Isle of Wight MP was critical of the size of the Navy's existing fleet, saying: "There are so few surface ships, 17 I think.

"The reality is, talk to any admiral and they will admit - give them a few drinks or a drink or two - that the carriers are not protectable by the Royal Navy in its current size.

HMS Queen Elizabeth
HMS Queen Elizabeth setting sail for the first time from Portsmouth Naval Base

"And in any conflict or threat of conflict with peer or near-peer nations, those carriers would go home and sit in a base because they are not protectable unless they would be surrounded by a US fleet, and they have no protection against ship-busting ballistic missiles.

"If we keep reducing the armed forces in personnel and in kit, we will be encouraging violence against this nation, not deterring it."

Mr Seely said the Department for International Development (DfID) should fund the BBC's World Service and boost the UK's soft power.

It came as he attacked Britain's "unbalanced" foreign policy and accused DfID of burning through money.

HMS Prince of Wales
HMS Prince of Wales was officially named in September 2017

Mr Seely also said that civilian populations were now "critical information and psychological targets" in modern warfare, saying the political and information war was the most powerful threat to Ukraine from Russia.

He added: "We spend £13 billion on aid every year - much of it badly spent, I apologise for saying - and yet here is a major prize that we are not trying to reach. We spend probably £40 million in Ukraine all in, including DfID.

"We irritate the Russians by parking military kit in the Baltics, and yet the most powerful weapon that we could have against Russian expansion, a stable Ukraine, a Ukraine that looks like Poland and not like Russia, we don't seem to be thinking enough about.

"This seems to me to be an example of a haphazard strategic thinking. So I'd argue that we have an unbalanced foreign policy.

"DfID burnt through money like it's going out of fashion."

HMS Queen Elizabeth
About 10,000 people worked on construction HMS Queen Elizabeth

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We keep all threats under constant review and our new aircraft carrier is well protected by air and sea assets as well as robust defensive systems.

"Our carrier strike group will be able to operate around the globe allowing Britain to meet future threats and support operations."

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