​‘Great Shrinking Britain’: Cameron rejects US envoys’ jibe as ‘nonsense’

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (Reuters/Peter Macdiarmid)
Britain is still pulling its weight on global security issues, Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted, despite US claims that continued defense cuts signal the UK is stepping back from the world stage.

Addressing the G7 summit in Germany, Cameron blasted recent claims by senior US figures that Britain was a diminishing power.

His comments come after it was reported on Monday that US diplomats had started referring to the country as “Great Shrinking Britain.

He told a press conference at the G7 that Britain was “a serious global player in the world with the budget to back it up.

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He added: “The idea that Britain is shrinking its role in the world when our flagship is saving lives in the Mediterranean, when we are training the Iraqi army, training Afghan officers, our jets are flying Baltic air patrolling missions, our submarines are silently patrolling the seas giving us a nuclear deterrent 365 days of the year, we’re ordering two of the largest aircraft carriers the Royal Navy has ever had.

The idea that this £160 billion equipment budget – that we’ve protected by inflation – represents strategic shrinkage I think is nonsense.

On Monday, it was also reported a French aircraft carrier would bolster the US fleet in the Gulf from this autumn. The US is relying on a French carrier for its Gulf operations because the UK currently lacks the same capacity, according to reports.

The French navy’s flagship – the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle – will fill the gap left when the USS Theodore Roosevelt ends its current tour with the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet in the autumn.

The first of Britain’s two new Queen Elizabeth carriers is not expected to enter into service until 2017, and questions remain over whether or not the F-35 combat aircraft which are meant to operate from the ships will be available.

Some military experts say the move reflects a British retreat from its global role that defines its so-called “special relationship” with the US.

Speaking to The Times newspaper, William Galston, of the Brookings Institution think tank, said: “The fear that the UK may no longer be in that exceptional category is palpable in Washington.