Britain will lose its defense capability if it sells off fleet to South America, MPs warn

Britain will lose its defense capability if it sells off fleet to South America, MPs warn
The Tories are planning to cut the already overstretched Royal Navy even further by selling part of its fleet to South America, with some MPs and ministers saying the cuts will deal a huge blow to Britain’s ability to defend itself.

Officials are reported to have secretly advised navies in Chile and Brazil that up to five frigates and the Royal Navy’s only two amphibious assault ships are up for grabs. It comes as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) tries to bridge a gap in funding of up to £30 billion ($39.7 billion) over the next decade.

According to defense specialist publication Jane’s Navy International,  the Navy’s two amphibious assault ships, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, may be sold to the South American countries despite the governing Conservative party pledging it would ensure the fleet of 13 frigates would not be reduced.

Retired Royal Marines officer Major General Julian Thompson told the Telegraph that if the fleet were to be cut further, the Navy would not be able to land heavy equipment and armor on beaches.

“If you give this capability away, you can’t get it back in a hurry… We are giving away an amphibious capability that to my mind is absolutely vital.”

On Wednesday night, Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, also hit out at the reported cost-cutting plans, saying: “The idea of getting rid of any more frigates is absolutely bonkers,” while arguing the numbers of the ships is already “woefully low”.

READ MORE: How much will F-35 jets cost UK & will they ever be delivered? Even ministers don’t know

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, however, denied any plans to sell the ships.

“We have not had any proposals to get rid of either Albion or Bulwark – they have not reached my desk in any shape or form – so this is simply speculation. The Navy’s two amphibious assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark were also simply speculation,” Fallon said. 

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We can categorically confirm that there has been no engagement with either Chile or Brazil in respect of Type 23 Frigates or the two landing platform dock ships.”