Politics

What Does The Election Result Mean For Defence?

The Conservative Party won the landslide majority at the 2019 General Election.

With the 2019 General Election being focused predominantly on Brexit, it was no surprise that defence was not the first line of duty during election campaigns.

Having won a landslide majority for the Conservative Party, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's next task will be to get to grips with recruitment retention problems in the Armed Forces.

How short is the British military?

The Royal Navy and the Royal Marines are around 1,600 people short - that works out at 5% below their targets.

The Royal Air Force is around 6% short - 2,000 people under target.

The Army, on the other hand, faces the biggest issue in recruitment as they sit 10% below their recruitment targets - around 8,500 short of their 82,000 threshold.

But there is the possibility that, under the new government, the recruitment targets for the Armed Forces could be changed.

Defence Review

Inside the Ministry of Defence (MOD), they are expecting the new government to carry out a defence review within the next year.

That could mean new five-to-ten-year plans for the forces and their equipment.

But some of the defence review answers will also have to come from the Treasury.

Defence spending

In their 2019 manifesto, the Conservatives committed to keep meeting the NATO 2% spending target.

Boris Johnson has also promised to invest in new areas, including cyber and space.

This year's core defence budget is around £39 billion.

It was boosted to that level in the autumn spending review by a cash injection of just over £1bn per year for the next two years.

That cash injection starved off cuts for the time being, but the latest figures from the Government's spending watchdog warns a of a budget black hole of up to £1.4bn a year over the next decade.

But one thing is for sure, Mr Johnson's government are going to have to "make some hard priority choices of what matters and what matters less", says Malcolm Chalmers, from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

"Get Brexit done" - but how?

Mr Johnson's mantra of "Get Brexit done", while being the campaign slogan, does raise the questions of how will he "get Brexit done" and how it will impact defence.

If there was an economic shock or boost, that would have the same impact on defence spending.

There is still negotiations to be done on Britain's relationship with European Union defence operations and structures, which could significantly impact the UK’s defence equipment and industry.

Mr Chlamers said in the future the UK will be "more or less excluded" from projects which the EU has funded:

"The EU is set to pour a large amount of money into the European defence fund which fund research and development projects throughout Europe - and the UK will be more or less excluded from those projects," he said.

"The more ambitious that becomes, I think the more difficult it will be for our company's to cooperate on a level playing field," Mr Chalmers added.

Operations

But while all the future plans, budgets, and Brexit negotiations are juggled, Boris Johnson will have to keep his eyes on British military operations around the world.

The Prime Minister will have to turn his attention to the British soldiers on Operation Toral, where personnel are delivering protection and training in Afghanistan, as well as the Royal Air Force jets flying over Iraq and Syria on Operation Shader.

Also, Royal Navy ships which have been patrolling in the Strait of Hormuz - including HMS Montrose, HMS Duncan, and HMS Kent - the latter which has just returned for Christmas.