Since the victory of Donald Trump in the US Presidential election the Internet has been ablaze - unlike this blog - with articles about the possible defence ramifications of his win. Indeed the Internet in general has gone into utter meltdown about Trump, but it's the more extreme ends that have amused me the most, those touting the end of the world as we know it.
Saturday, 22 October 2016
So last night I found out that Think Defence is hanging up his keyboard, at least as far as blogging is concerned.
I've known TD since about 2010ish I believe, maybe earlier, when I first stumbled across his blog. I started out just reading the articles and the fascinating discussions that accompanied them in the comments section, something which I think has always been a great strength of Think Defence; the quality and diversity of the comments it attracted and the debates that sprung from them. Eventually I joined in the discussions and from there started contributing guest articles. It was Think Defence that ultimately got me into the blogging game, so in the end analysis you can blame all my ramblings on him!
It's a sad day for UK defence commentary to see him go. Not only did his articles attract an unmatched level of discussion from civilians and military personnel alike, but the breadth of the topics - particularly those not normally covered on defence blogs - guaranteed that Think Defence was at the forefront of UK defence blogging.
I owe him a lot and it's a debt I'll never really be able to repay. The UK defence community is certainly losing one of its best assets, but blogging is a lot harder than it looks, especially if you want to produce decent quality material. I can't argue with anyone that wants to put their blog to bed and spend more time with the family.
All we can do then is wish him well and I hope that whatever he turns to next will be a success. Probably building bridges out of shipping containers.
Posted by Chris at 5:59 pm
Saturday, 8 October 2016
Friday, 30 September 2016
I've talked recently about strategy, how it relates to the UK and the lack of a seemingly coherent UK strategy in the sense of having an armed forces that are shaped to meet some very specific strategic goals. But one thing I haven't talked about yet, one thing we always seem to forget, is what I like to call the "British Dilemma".
Posted by Chris at 4:56 pm
Friday, 9 September 2016
Saturday, 20 August 2016
Recently I assessed both some of the lessons that could be taken from the Chilcot enquiry into the UK's contribution to the Iraq campaign, and also some of the lessons that have come out of the fighting in Ukraine. During the process of this it occurred to me that British land forces as currently structured seem ill prepared to meet some of the challenges raised, such as some of the logistic issues raised by Chilcot and certainly some of the emerging challenges that have appeared in Ukraine. A leaked British army report would seem to agree with that position.
The trouble is what to do about it? Today I'm going to dip my toe into waters that I normally try and avoid, that of the so-called "fantasy fleets/fantasy orbats" etc, and look at a possible restructuring of the British Army to meet these new challenges. But in order to do this with any kind of sanity and an intention to produce something that is at least workable in reality - in broad terms if not in detail - then it needs to be somewhat grounded and adhere to a few basic rules.
Posted by Chris at 12:22 am
Monday, 15 August 2016
Apologies for those who've been waiting for my latest post. One of the downsides of being a blogger is that it will naturally have to come below a number of other things on the pecking order, not unless someone wants to start financing me for this?
No takers? No?
Sod 'ya then. In that case I better start producing more content in the ever elusive pursuit of some meagre ad revenue. And today I just want to touch quickly on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Posted by Chris at 8:34 pm
Wednesday, 10 August 2016
While I finish up work on my latest full post, just thought I'd share something with you which I found interesting (and which has contributed to the delay of my next post...)
The other day I came across a pdf version of an M-16 case study, written in 1970 by then retired Colonel Richard R. Hallock. The document is quite a detailed report of the history of the M-16 development with respects to the US army's perspective and represents a catalogue of failures and outright malicious attempts to kill the rifle off despite the strong evidence that developed to support it.
I find this document interesting because it shows the extent of just how resistant to change an organisation can be when it is stuck in its own way of doing things, and how easy it can be to subtley manipulate test data, impeding the progress of more advantageous solutions at the expense of the people at the business end who have to deal with such failures, in what amounts to nothing short of criminal negligence.
It also highlights that while large defence contractors hardly have a saintly record of helping their end users acquire the correct systems at the correct price, sometimes the procurement wounds inflicted on military organisations are almost entirely self-inflicted, either for institutional reasons, or for the benefit of individuals personal careers. Even military officers with distinguished careers and a life time of service to a cause greater than themselves can be coaxed into making choices that are personal in nature, to the detriment of their service and their fellow professionals.
There are two caveats that I will throw out though.
The first is that I can't find much about Col. Hallock's history, beyond a brief a biography. There doesn't seem to be any commercial connections to someone like Colt, or anyone else involved in the M-16 program, but you never know. I always find this an intersting starting point with a document like this, to figure out who the person writing it is and what connections they may or may not have to the subject matter. Secondly, for time reasons, I've not checked any of the reports and materials referenced in the document. It is taken as written that they say what Hallock says they do, which is always a somewhat risky thing to do.
Just keep those two things in mind if you fancy a read. And if you do, the link is here.
Posted by Chris at 6:25 pm
Sunday, 31 July 2016
A while back I came across this pdf document about the war in Ukraine over at Think Defence (sorry TD, couldn't remember the exact page!). Written by Dr. Phillip A. Karber of The Potomac Foundation, the paper offers insights into the nature of the conflict, specifically from the military perspective and with a strong focus on the front line aspects of what is happening, with the intention of trying to draw out information that might be of use to future US and allied leaders in a conventional style conflict, possibly with Russia. Most of the information is drawn from the authors personal experience and observations, plus his interviews with Ukrainian officers and troops. One of the stated aims of the paper is to; "stimulate a dialogue on the military aspects of the Russo-Ukrainian War with a focus on emerging trends".
So today we're going to review some of its contents and try to stimulate a dialogue about possible emerging trends.
Posted by Chris at 9:44 pm
Friday, 22 July 2016
Friday, 15 July 2016
Having poured through many of the elements of the Chilcot report (but certainly not the entire thing) I thought I'd take a pause to comment on some of the issues thrown up by it. One thing I don't intend to do is to go into the legal minefield of whether or not the war was justified under international law, nor do I want to get bogged down in the moral (or otherwise) arguments about whether or not the war was a good idea, and whether or not it achieved its aims. Rather there are some very specific points that I want to pick out.
Posted by Chris at 7:15 pm
Sunday, 10 July 2016
Today I'm going back to talking about Brexit for a bit. The plan for the week ahead, time permitting, is to look at some aspects of the Chilcot report, then a post about Ukraine.
For now though I want to focus on the plan for the UK now that it has voted to leave the EU. Or rather, the lack of a plan. As the various political parties sling it out with one another internally, it has basically been left to the Chancellor George Osborne and the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney to pick up the slack, steady the ship, and take the UK forward in the interim. And yet both appear to be doing everything in their power to kick the whole apple cart over, almost as if they're worried their credibility might be damaged should the financial apocalypse that they both predicted not materialise. So what should we be doing?
Posted by Chris at 7:54 pm
Tuesday, 5 July 2016
One of the most dreaded phrases in modern corporate speak has to be "Personal Development Plan". In theory PDPs are a good idea, designed to improve the workforce by giving them additional skills, something which benefits both the employer and the employee. It's the implementation that's the problem, normally because businesses struggle to identify what skills are actually useful to their employees and as such to them as a business. How to develop those skills is the second challenge. As much as it might pain some executives to accept, the reality is that a good piss up is still a better team building exercise than a weekend spent paint-balling and doing interpretive dance.
By comparison I have always found one method of personal development to be unusually helpful, that of formally arguing against your own position and beliefs. I find it quite instructive to play the 'Devil's Advocate' every now and again, as long as you do it honestly and earnestly (otherwise there's no point). In some cases it can lead you to change your point of view entirely. Sometimes it merely leads you to strengthen your resolve on your original position. It can help you to see the flaws in your current position, making you more aware of the challenges of a particular course. It can also help you to strengthen your debating position with others, by preparing you to convince the sceptical about concerns they have with certain elements of your argument.
And for those reasons today is going to be about me arguing against myself. Specifically, arguing against my recent post on the future of UK defence.
I'm going to target a piece of the argument in particular, that being the idea of the UK as a potential "building block" nation onto which others could bolt their capabilities, as well as the idea of the UK building closer ties with smaller nations. And for a change, I'm actually going to tackle those arguments in the listed order!
Posted by Chris at 3:30 pm
Saturday, 2 July 2016
It seems that of late their is a bit of a fashion to post a list of 9 things that you've learned since becoming a blogger. So here are the nine things I've learned since I started blogging back in July of 2012:
1. Swearing generates pageviews. The more swearing, the more pageviews.
2. If the MoD's annual budget was £5 and its annual requirements were to buy just one cup of coffee, with milk and two sugars, it would somehow find a way to fuck that up.
3. If the Internet defence community spent as much time working out how the three services could help one another by working together as they do pushing interservice rivalries, then Britain would have an enviable wealth of information and ideas about co-operation to work with.
4. Its is still underestimated just how much the economy and public will affects defence and defence spending.
5. Much of the defence world, including politicians, service chiefs and some of the private providers, lives in its own little bubble seemingly ignorant of the fact the rest of the commerical world routinely deals with (and solves) the kind of commercial problems that people often complain are "not as easy as you think".
6. Britain has probably wasted more time and more money trying to reduce procurement costs through collaborative programs with large overseas partners than it has saved, largely due to the inability to pick appropriate partners in the first place.
7. The post that takes you five minutes to read probably took five HOURS to write. Blogging tends to be far more time consuming than you'd imagine, especially without a staff of researchers backing you up like a commercial media organisation can afford. As a broad rule each paragraph represents anything from 10 minutes to an hours worth of work, including research, typing, proof reading and editing.
8. The reality is that short articles frequently out perform large articles in terms of pageviews. Given the amount of time and research required for some of the bigger articles, efficiency often significantly favours the shorter work.
9. There is no money in blogging. Blogging has to be a passion, otherwise it will become a ball and chain.
Posted by Chris at 9:20 pm
Tuesday, 28 June 2016
In the wake of the 'Brexit' vote the discussions have now begun about where the UK might pitch itself in terms of its place in the world and in particular where it will go moving forward in terms of defence. Aside from the talk of international agreements, the EU army etc, already I've seen the varied interests in UK defence positioning themselves to make a move for additional funding going forward. And maybe now is a good time to sit down and just reflect on the UK's position in defence terms and to look at where we are and where we're going. The first stop I think might be to consider the three predominant positions that I see being discussed, each one advocating primacy for one of the three services.
Posted by Chris at 5:31 pm
Friday, 24 June 2016
So here we are. The UK has voted to leave the EU. Thankfully the campaign is now done and we get to look forward to the joy of a bunch of party leadership elections, which of course everyone in the UK is delighted about (about as much as eating a bag of nails). What we can finally do is start to assess the economics of the vote and consider the UK's role going forward in the defence sphere.
Posted by Chris at 7:36 pm
Sunday, 19 June 2016
Lately the blog has gone a bit political and it really needs to shift back to defence. At the same time, I'm sick of hearing 'Remain' campaigners talking about the "economic consequences of leaving the EU" when most can't actually explain what they are. So I set myself a challenge; to try and mix the two elements - economics of a 'Brexit' and UK defence - into one post, preferably without using any swear words this time. Which being the clever bastar... clever bugg... clever dic... clever so and so that I am, I think I've managed.
I was also inspired to write this piece because I'm getting pretty fed up with a narrative that's been going around for about the last two months or so; degree educated people are more likely to vote to stay in the EU, while those without degrees are in favour of leaving, the implication being (and often explicitly stated) that if you plan to vote 'Leave' then clearly it's because you're dumb and should probably just leave such important decisions to the well educated people who know best.
As someone without a degree this really, really gets up my snout. Luckily as an ex-bouncer I'm well trained in conflict resolution and de-escalation measures, and as all of you who've been following this blog (or discovered it in recent days) will know, I am a calm, peaceful, measured, reasonable kind of guy...
Posted by Chris at 9:35 am
Friday, 17 June 2016
I try and keep political posts off this blog, at least to a degree, as it's really supposed to just be about defence. And I also try not to swear too much (f**k off. I don't). For that reason I hereby give you ample warning of the following;
- This blog post has nothing to do with defence. Not a sausage.
- This blog post contains a lot of uncensored sweary language that is NSFW. Please do not read on if you find swearing offensive or are reading this in a place where such content would be inappropriate.
You have been warned...
Posted by Chris at 10:40 pm
Tuesday, 14 June 2016
The news of recent weeks with regards to Iraq has been mostly positive. The government is making ground against ISIS, who in turn are being hit hard on a number of fronts. To pinch a phrase from Churchill, it looks like we might be at "the end of the beginning". But there is still a long road to go. And that's got me wondering.
Posted by Chris at 6:52 pm
Wednesday, 8 June 2016
Yesterday the House of Commons Defence Select Committee took evidence about the future of the Type 26 program and the problems with the Type 45 destroyers, specifically their power train and electrical generation capabilities.
The meeting was notable for two main reasons. Firstly, the committee performed pretty well, asking good questions and forcing some uneasy answers out of the witnesses. I suspect a damning report will come from this. The only thing that disappointed me is I felt they could have gone after the witnesses a little more aggressively at times, though I appreciate that the House has certain rules about proper decorum which likely exclude such actions as chucking your shoes at people and choke holds.
Secondly, some of the stunning admissions that were made by the witnesses. This was especially the case when BAE and Rolls-Royce were questioned about operating environments and it was revealed that the Royal Navy had - allegedly (I still have difficulty believing it) - not specified that the Type 45 would need to operate in areas of high ambient temperature, for example the middle east. The revelations became even more absurd when the committee pressed the panel for an answer as to why they didn't think to point this out to the MoD and the Royal Navy and warn them that there would be problems in these conditions, to which they just got a bunch of glum looks, a few shurgs of the shoulder and some half muted comments about "well, it wasn't in the specification". It's at this point that I personally would have been shoeless and on my way to getting arrested, so I commend the committee for its restraint.
So for something a little different today I've laid out some hypothetical questions for the committee to ask in a hypothetical second meeting, generated from notes and thoughts that I made as I watched the proceedings. Some are serious, some a little more tongue in cheek...
Q1. I would like to start by asking Lord West whether on not you feel that the comments you made at the last session, such as making extraordinary claims about the level of risk posed by an Argentine invasion of the Falklands Islands when you know full well that is a highly unlikely scenario given the material state of the Argentine armed forces, risks creating a 'Credibility Deficit' in the MoD, the Royal Navy and the office of the first sea lord? Do you not see that there is a danger here of becoming "the boy that cried wolf", which could cause problems for future Naval chiefs - and indeed other defence chiefs - who could find themselves being ignored or derided for scaremongering in their pursuit of extra funding when in fact they may be trying to warn the government about a genuinely serious threat or crisis?
Q2. To Lord West and Sir Mark Stanhope - particularly Sir Mark as this happened while you were First Sea Lord - I'd like to ask why it is that the carriers were not better protected if it was seen as a core business area of the Navy? You've both explained the merits of carriers and their capabilities, and you've both warned about the danger posed by gapping the carrier capability, so why did you not fight harder to protect it? More pertinently perhaps, why did you not find room elsewhere to accomodate the carriers? I find it astounding that you would allow a capability that you truly felt was critical to the Navy to be gapped. I can't think of another organisation, private or public, that would allow such a core element of what it does to fade away in such a manner. Imagine a supermarket without tills or a motorway petrol station without pumps, it's just absurd. So I would put it to you then that either the carriers were not as important to the Navy as you claim, or you were simply just so poor at managing your budgets and prioritising your assets that you ended up gapping a critical asset in order to maintain face saving numbers. So which is it?
Q3. Coming back to Lord West, I'd like to ask you about a discrepancy between your evidence and that of Peter Roberts from RUSI. Mr. Roberts mentioned a study conducted in 2008 that suggested that a carrier group or amphibious group would need four Type 45 destroyers as air warfare escorts in order to fight against a peer level enemy, yet you said two would be needed and that was to go into the South China Sea and fight against the Chinese. That's quite a disparity of opinion, with Mr. Roberts suggesting twice as many ships for a scenario against a much less capable enemy than the one you put forth. So who's is right? Were you simply not aware of this study? How can two people very knowledgeable in the art of naval warfare have such dramatically different opinions on what is adequate protection for a carrier? And considering the study mentioned by Mr. Roberts presumed that a Cooperative Engagment Capability would be in place, does this mean that without it the UK is in effect unable to protect a carrier group or amphibious group adequately in its current state?
Q4. I'd like to ask the two former admirals why was the subject of integrated escort platforms, both ASW and AAW capable, dodged? It's true that trying to build a ship that is truly capable of both to a high level is expensive and not an easy undertaking, but as was pointed out by Mr. Roberts the US have attempted this to a degree in order to save money, and other services such as the RAF and British army have made strides in trying to make their platforms multi-purpose. Why then were you so adamant that the two ship types be separate?
Q5. I'd now like to turn briefly to members of the committee itself for a moment and ask them whether or not they have been briefed about the dangers of holding their phones in such a way that not only the gallery at the back but also the TV cameras can see what's on their phones, and the possible security implications of such?
Q6. During the last session it became clear that the answer to almost every question posed was "it's not our fault, it's all the MoD and the Treasury m'lud". So does the panel seriously expect the committee to believe that the Royal Navy had no hand in its own failings and that this was all the fault of civil service designs on the budget? Does the Royal Navy really not accept any kind of blame for the management of its budget and its priorities over the last decade or more, and its own hand in causing problems for its own programs?
Q7. Does the panel really consider it credible to argue that the MoD should keep infinitely having to pull money out of its arse to fund various problems in the Navy, as opposed to the Navy actually taking responsbility for its own failings and its own budget problems? Is the Navy, and perhaps they would like to comment on the other arms of the services as well, is the Navy institutionally incapable of managing a budget?
Q8. I'd just like to ask Mr. Roberts quickly whether or not he's aware that the word 'Proven' is pronounced "proo-ven" and not "pro-van".
Q9. Does the panel accept the perfectly valid point made by Mr. Roberts that not everything on a British warship necessarily needs to be British and that, providing future access and export issues are resolved before hand, it is not the end of the world for a warship to have say American engines on board, especially ones that are of a proven design? And should it not be the responsbility of the Navy staff, and indeed the staffs of the other services, to fight more vigorously against decisions which are clearly industrial based at the expense of the services, given that it is the job of the staffs to represent the interests of their services, including resigning if needs be. I'm reminded for example of Admiral Band who threatened to resign as First Sea Lord if both carriers were not committed to be brought into service, and who I'm sure is now watching these proceedings with great interest, perhaps from the offices of Lockheed Martin UK whose parent company makes the F-35 and where he is now a non-executive director. Oops did I say that last bit out loud, can we strike that from the record please?
Q10. Before we move on I'd like to answer one of our own questions from the last hearing, that being why it is that these procurement projects take so long and seem to cost so much. The answer being that we as a nation are fundamentally incompetent when it comes to procurement.
Q11. Turning back to the former admirals now, I'd like to ask them why it is that Mr. Roberts, a civilian working for RUSI, seems to know more about all these subjects than the pair of you together? He gives much clearer answers and with greater detail, generally seeming to be more "on the ball". Do they feel perhaps that this is a sign that in future old fuddy duddies should be removed from procurement decision making chains, and that a combination of dedicated civil service procurement staff and young, capable and current officers should take over? Does this suggest that perhaps in future the more capable of the younger staff should be accelerated through the chain of command into senior positions, perhaps through an open application process as opposed to a staged chain of promotion?
Q12. Do the panel, particularly Adms. Stanhope and West, not see the hypocrisy of accusing the Treasury of being short sighted on budget matters, saving money in the short term but adding cost overall, only to then say that it was inappropriate to have too much on shore testing because of cost grounds?
Q13. Moving on now to the private sector representatives from Rolls-Royce, BAE, Northrop Grumman and General Electric, can I just ask why do you bother coming? If you're not going to give even half decent answers then why bother showing up at all? Or perhaps you are the runts of the litter, the people that get sent to these things because if you say something stupid then you make a good fall guy? Do your companies actually employ anyone that speaks English and that can understand it, as many of you seemed to actually and genuinely not understand some of the simple questions that were asked, presuambly because they went over your head?
Q14. Are you seriously telling us that neither the MoD nor yourselves considered the possibility of the Type 45 being sent to operate in the gulf? Did you seriously not think about this possibility and how it might affect the engines and the power systems? If you did, yet then opted not to tell the Navy about it and in doing so put the sailors onboard at serious risk in order to protect your contracts and profit margin, does this mean that you're either a) incredibly stupid or b) utterly unsuitable as contractors to government? It has to be one or the other. And can you give me a suitable reason why I shouldn't just throw my shoes at you right now and then choke the remainder of you out cold? Sorry did I say that last bit out loud? Strike that from the record please.
Q15. Turning specifically to Mr. Hudson for a second, how is it that you as a managing director of BAE were not able to answer a question about when the Type 26 program might actually start, yet the trade union convenor from Unite was able to give us an approximate starting date based on what he and his members had been told by your company?
Q16. Sticking with Mr. Hudson, why is the so-called 'Frigate Factory' plan for Scotstoun not going forward, especially as this was a key part of the rationale for losing the Portsmouth yard and was an important part of the business case for Type 26 exports? Mr. McPhee from Unite said he wasn't sure, but it had something to do with investment. If that's the case, why as a private company do you constantly insist on the government providing investment for you, instead of using your own money? Do you not think there is a risk that if you maintain this attitude going forward then one day a sensible government is going to turn around and force you into a batch based, fixed price contract which will make you wish you had spent some of your own money? And if the Frigate Factory really did promise the savings you envisioned, then why haven't you paid for it yourself, unless of course you were trying to string the MoD along in order to get them to fund upgrades on your behalf?
And that will bring the session to a close. Order, order.
Though perhaps just one last question, this time aimed at nobody in particular. I'd like someone to explain to me how it is that the Business select committee can be described as 'must see of late' by the BBC because they've been digging into what Sports Direct and BHS are getting up to, yet the quite scandalous and embarassing (alleged) omission by the Navy and the MoD to specify middle eastern operation for the Type 45 hasn't even made the website as far as I can tell. I often hear people in the defence community wonder why the public doesn't seem more concerned and I suspect this is the answer right here, because these things have become so routine now that they're not even treated like the national level scandals they should be. This level of incompetence, if proven, should be ending a flurry of careers left, right and centre. Instead it's business as usual for defence.
A sorry state of affairs indeed.
Posted by Chris at 4:59 pm
Thursday, 2 June 2016
Today we're going a bit defense with an 'S', at least for a short while, in order to take the scenic route round and eventually end up back at some defence with a 'C'. So let's talk about the A-10 shall we?
The A-10 is probably one of the more controversial platforms in military service today. The US Air Force that operates it is not especially fond of it. That's largely because it's an old, single mission airframe. It does one job superbly; close air support. It has problems with others, though it can serve as an air interdiction platform. The Air Force objects to the A-10 because it has a multitude of other platforms that can perform a similar role and also do other jobs such as air-to-air or deep strike. People forget that outside of the COIN wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the A-10 has proved to be less than ideal in its primary attack role. In 1991 the A-10s suffered heavy casualties in both shot down and irreparably damaged aircraft (out of action for the air campaign) due to enemy fire. The A-10 was shifted to medium altitude work to essentially save it from itself, at which point its ability to carry and launch guided missiles became its primary offensive capability.
Three trends have served to further reduce the utility of the A-10. Firstly, the spread of man-portable and vehicle mounted short range surface to air missiles and anti-aircraft guns has blunted the A-10s preferred operating environment somewhat. Recent conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Libya have seen an increasing number of aircraft being shot down while operating at low altitude, many of them much faster types than the A-10 such as the MiG-29.
Secondly, the proliferation of small, air launched guided weapons has eroded the A-10s claim as the king of precision attack for close support. Weapons like the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) and the UK's dual-mode Brimstone have handed fast air a new set of tools for picking off small point targets, even those close to friendly forces. With these weapons getting smaller and more numerous, while their warheads are becoming increasingly more tailored to minimising collateral damage, the A-10 and its main gun slips closer and closer to irrelevance.
Finally the growth in high-endurance platforms carrying such weapons has increased. Modern drones can loiter over the target area, menacing the enemy with bombs and missiles, for a lot longer than an A-10 can. Aircraft like the B-52, B-1 and AC-130 combine long loiter times with large and varied payloads, providing a flexibility that further eats into the A-10s domain. These factors combined together are slowly pushing the A-10 out the door.
Except that the US army has resisted this at every turn. There are a number of reasons why, but probably the most important reason for the higher ups in the army is the one that doesn't get talked about all that often, if at all; the A-10 capability is effectively a subsidy for the army.
They don't pay for the aircraft. They don't pay for its crews. They don't pay to base them, for the training, the spare parts, or the munitions that are used in their support. Forcing the USAF to keep the A-10 alive allows the army to retain a capability predominantly for its own purposes, but without any of the expense. On that basis it's odd that I've never heard a USAF general table a new offer to the army; you want it, you pay for it. The USAF could run the program and the army would pay all of its associated expenses. Only at that point would we find out just how much the army truly coveted the capabilities that the A-10 brings vs other platforms.
The result of this ongoing subsidy has been that the army has gotten away with a lack of investment in precision attack weapons. It has some, but not many. When you look at the air force and navy it's interesting to see the shift that has taken place. The navy has moved from big gun battleships and gun based air defence to weapons like Harpoon and Tomahawk for anti-ship and land attack, while air defence has predominantly shifted to a mix of long and short range missiles, as well as the adoption of modern aviation assets. The air force has gone from firing .50cals at enemy aircraft to firing AMRAAMs and Sidewinders at them. They've shifted from using dumb bombs and rockets on ground targets to GPS and laser guided bombs, as well as laser guided missiles. Where has the army been during this time?
At this stage I'd like to quote from Think Defence and his recent complex weapons series as he summed up the point in a basically perfect manner;
... the expectation of ubiquitous availability of close air support may be difficult to meet in operations where those aircraft may be engaged in interdiction or attacks against enemy air defences. In the defence, e.g. in a Baltic type scenario, the time available between grinding down enemy air defences and the commencement of ground operations may not be to our liking or expectation. Ground forces will have to be more self-sufficient in precision fire in support of deliberate actions or in response to unexpected activity.
Since the second world war the army has basically become reliant on the expectation of air support. And while air support continues to offer significant advantages in close support operations such as surprise and concentration of effort, this reliance has left the army deficient in the ability to deal with its own business. It has in many respects become dependent on the air force and navy to bail it out of certain situations with the mass use of airpower, lacking as it does a range of precision targeting and engagement abilities.
This is not a weakness exclusive to the US army and here is where we wrap around back into defence with a 'C'. The British army, and indeed most of the worlds armies, have fallen into a similar trap. Many lack the ability to adequately protect themselves from immediate air attack, though this is something the British army is now working on, as well as the ability to provide precision attack in support of troops in contact, and the ability to conduct precision strike against targets deeper in their area of operations.
I'll throw you this link to another part of Think Defence's complex weapon series, the "Harebrained Schemes" section which includes a number of what I think are actually good examples, and we'll now look at the concept in a bit more detail.
As mentioned above the areas of particular concern for me are 1) the close support of troops in a COIN environment with precision strikes, 2) the close support of troops in a more conventional environment with precision strikes, and 3) the ability of troops penetrating into the enemies deep zones, especially reconnaissance units, to call up precision attack on opportunity targets.
The case example brought up by Think Defence was a possible incursion in the Baltic region, where air assets would potentially be preoccupied immediately with counter-air tasks and deep attack. In addition to this it may simply be a case that the operating environment does not permit the use of aircraft in close proximity to troops due to the risk posed by a mix of enemy anti-aircraft assets. It could be that friendly air forces have suffered a degree of attrition that limits their available assets for ground support. It may be that the complexity and depth of the enemies rear support and military infrastructure requires more assets for the air to ground campaign and interdiction efforts (which are the prime and most efficient use of the air force, due to its range). It may simply be that the availability of air assets is limited - both in conventional and COIN environments - for political, economic, geographic or temporal reasons, aside from operational demands.
In all of these cases the army needs to be able to fill the void itself. It should also be emphasised at this point that really the main advantages and uses of airpower are not to be found in close air support. The navy retains airpower predominantly for the protection of its at sea assets, as well as to extend the range and quality of its ability to conduct strike operations against both enemy naval and land assets. Supporting troops in contact was never a main driver for the development of the aircraft carrier. Similarly the rise of the independent air force came about as the understanding of the uses of airpower rose over time, and the potential for airpower to strike at the heart of the enemy was realised. The air forces main missions involve protecting the home nation and forces from attack while simultaneously taking the offensive onto the enemies home soil. Supporting troops in contact is once again down the priority ladder, and for good reason. I think it can also be reasonably argued that reconnaissance and deep interdiction are more important ways that an air force can use the unique nature of its assets to contribute to the ground operations.
In this context the land forces really need to develop two types of precision attack; small weapons for use in close proximity to friendlies, especially in a COIN environment, and larger warheads, especially for use at range.
The smaller natures would focus mainly on hitting targets such as individual machine gun positions, sniper points and small buildings such as houses being used for cover. While the army has a range of existing tools for this kind of mission, including its own snipers and machine guns, anti-tank weapons and mortars, it seems there is a slot to fill here for a small precision weapon, especially in a COIN environment where the ability to hit one specific point with minimal risk of collateral damage would be highly advantageous. Rounds such as those used on the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) fit the bill, a long with something like the Excalibur guided artillery round.
While these rounds are already in use their ubiquity seems to be lacking as investment - particularly in the UK - seems to be poor. There's probably a host of reasons for this, but one of the drivers seems to be simply the subsidy argument, that it'll all be ok because the air force and navy will continue to subsidise the army by meeting most of its precision strike requirements. This seems particularly odd considering the chain of command that soldiers in contact in Afghanistan and Iraq often had to pass through to get air support, where requests could take 10 minutes or more to generate an air asset on station which then had to be talked onto the target. The advantage of having artillery within range which could react much quicker would seem to be an odd thing to ignore.
The larger warhead requirement would on its own fill two sub-requirements. Firstly the requirement to support troops in contact with much larger precision fires, equivalent in some cases to putting a 1,000-lbs bomb onto the enemy. The ability to completely destroy an enemy position in a building, to obliterate a bunker, or simply to airburst a large warhead over a group of enemy soldiers - all without having to call for and wait on an air asset - would provide the army with quite a rare capability that it hasn't really had since the days of battleship fire support in world war two. Except instead of calling in a battery of rounds onto the approximate area, now the army would be able to place the incoming explosive on the spot where it needed it with a degree of precision.
The other sub-requirement of this would be the ability to provide fire support at longer ranges, beyond the reach of traditional artillery systems. This requirement is predominantly driven by the needs of both armoured forces - in particular their recce elements, who can often find themselves operating at significant depth behind the enemies main battle line - and those units in a COIN environment that may find themselves operating at significant distances from the nearest support.
This requirement has a lot more flexibility in potential options for its fulfillment. GMLRS can already, on paper at least, hit out to around 43 miles (75km) with a 200-lbs warhead. Lockheed Martin is however working on a GMLRS+ round with a range estimated at around 75 miles (120km). Meanwhile Boeing has partnered with SAAB of Sweden to produce a ground launched version of the SDB which can be fired from the M270 MLRS platform. The weapon fulfils the longer range requirment, with a maximum glide range of around 93 miles (150km). To put that into perspective, a launcher based at Camp Bastion in Helmand province would have been able to provide fire support to units operating around the Kajaki dam and still had a bit of range to spare (though it might have taken a while to make the journey).
The only downside of a system like the Ground Launched SDB (GLSDB) is that the explosive content of the warhead is only 38-lbs. In some environments, like the aforementioned Afghanistan scenario, that would be advantageous. Coupled with its range the weapon could fulfil a wide range of tasks, from the closer range precision requirement out to deep strike against smaller targets. But it does lack a bit of punch. Still, it goes like the absolute bloody clappers (skip to 2:05 in the video below:
But we need something with a bit more punch as well. A good example is the potential ground launched version of the German/Spanish KEPD 350 "Taurus". With an estimated range of around 310 miles (500km) and a 1,100-lbs dual warhead capable of penetrating hardened structures, the Taurus offers a lot of bang out to a fairly considerable range. If Taurus can be ground launched (in a two missile arrangement off a truck) then Storm Shadow probably could be as well. Not only could such a round be able to reach out and hit long distance targets in preparation for a ground offensive (such as a pre-observed command post or a bridge), but it would also be able to provide support out to longer distances to support forward recce elements, and could also provide a need for greater precision punch to troops in contact. Considering the vast array of man portable targeting systems such as BAE Systems TRIGR or the Jenoptik TYTON and NYXUS BIRD systems, target acquisition and ranging (including the generation of target GPS coordinates) shouldn't prove too much of a problem. Indeed in the future these devices might rival the machine gun as some of the most important pieces of equipment at the Platoon level.
A range of weapons like this would not only free the army from having to rely on the air force for precision fire support, as well as potentially speeding up response times to requests for such support, but it would also end the need of the air force and navy to spend as much time and money subsidising land operations. They would be able to re-focus more of their resources on their primary missions and those areas of land support where their strengths shine through the most prominently. The potential of such precision land attack extends even further though.
One of the areas where me and Think Defence differ is that he generally emphasises commonality and a desire to avoid too much replication of capabilities in different formats (such as different weapons for the same mission). I'm generally the opposite. While commonality has its advantages, I'm generally a proponent of specialism and over-lapping redundancy. One of the appeals to me of such ground based systems, especially ground based missiles of the cruise missile class, is the way they can compliment and even cover for other assets.
While an air launched cruise missile brings speed, range and surprise - for a price - a ground launched weapon of the same kind brings persistence. It can sit in a launch vehicle and hold a target under threat almost indefinitely, and do so at low cost (naval platforms generally tend to bridge the gap between both worlds). Thus long-range precision ground weapons can help to significantly expand the range of options available to military and political leaders. And this is where I want to take the idea one step further.
One of my gripes, of which there are many, is that the UK lacks both a long ranged, ground based air defence missile and a ground launched anti-shipping weapon (as well as an air launched one). Even as the French attempt to produce a vehicle based SAM using the Aster 30 as the base weapon, the UK seems unconcerned. I get the rationale; the RAF has its own missiles for its aircraft and the RN has its own weapons for its ships. But what about the little gaps in between?
If we look at the Falklands Islands, the one piece of British owned soil which could be argued to be most at risk (let's not get into arguments about how much risk just now), where is the anti-ship and anti-air capability? The Typhoons based their have no anti-shipping capability and the four of them represent pretty much the sole air defence capacity of the Islands. Would not a mobile SAM system give them a more layered response and make any attack more difficult? Would not a truck mounted anti-shipping capability make a naval attack that much harder?
Going beyond this much debated aspect of UK defence, let's look for example at RAF Akrotiri. The base cannot be permanently protected by the UK's Typhoon fleet. Ground based SAM systems and anti-ship systems would offer a measure of additional protection not currently available. Taken a step further, the UK would be able to offer these abilities, along with precision land attack, to any ally that required them, such as the Baltic nations for example, or an ally in the middle east.
One also wonders (for one is in posh mode) what might have been, and what could be, in terms of land-sea-air cooperation. Imagine operations similar to those in the western desert of Iraq during the 1991 gulf war replayed, but this time instead of significant air resources having to be diverted to support special forces in their scud hunting mission, now long ranged, ground based precision attack could be used to support them. While some air support might be needed, rather than these weapons posing a challenge to air power they would instead compliment it and free up assets for the main thrust of the air campaign.
What if ground based air defence platforms could be used to cover an area and free up air assets for other missions? What if ground based anti-shipping weapons could be used to cover a naval chokepoint, potentially freeing up naval assets for work in more open areas. And the beat goes on, with air lauched anti-shipping and naval based land attack capabilities, allowing all three services to compliment and cover each other as and when the situation requires. Rather than redundent systems stepping on each others toes, they would instead give policy/decision makers a variety of options and responses in terms of speed, persistence and political acceptability.
Predominantly though, if nothing else, I think the time has come for the army to stop relying on others to provide it with its precision attack ability, especially at their expense. It needs to take back ownership of the requirement to support troops in contact and to support its mobile forces. Instead of expecting aviation assets to be on hand at its beck and call all the time, the army should see the provision of air support more as a bonus. And as a compliment.
Next up here will be another post about COIN operations, then a look at a something from Ukraine. You can complain about this article on Twitter @defencewithac, or by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Chris at 8:49 pm
Tuesday, 24 May 2016
At the risk of this becoming "Economics with a C", or more bizarrely "Referendum with a C", I want to just take a few moments to analyse the Treasury's latest report "The immediate economic impact of leaving the EU". After all, the Brexit debate could change the UK's security position through virtue of an altered economic position. So what is this report?
Well, "not worth the paper it was written on" would be a good starting point. It's an analysis produced by the Treasury with the help of Professor Sir Charles Bean, who is noted only as an advisor to the Treasury. For some reason they left out mentioning that he was once a special advisor to the European Parliament Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. How careless of them. After all that could potentially be seen as a significant conflict of interest for what is supposedly an independent report, but then I don't think anyone that read this report would have seriously believed for a second that it had any kind of independence about it. Moving on from that, what does the report actually say?
Well it's supposed to be an investigation into what will happen to the UK economy post-Brexit. A forecast really, though nobody seems to dare call it a forecast even though that's precisely what it is. What else do you call an attempt to predict the future? Well apparently this an analysis, not a forecast, which is odd because I'm fairly certain you can't analyse in detail something which has not happened yet. Now as you might expect it's all doom and gloom. It tries to predict, sorry, analyse, two different economic scenarios following a Brexit; shock and severe shock.
No, I'm not joking, the report genuinely has just assumed that either one or the other of these two things will happen, with no thought of an alternative.
And that really is where the whole thing breaks down. It is based entirely on a series of inter-locking assumptions, many of which are highly questionable. It repeatedly uses the phrase "following the shock of a vote to leave the EU" as if it is pre-determined that a vote to leave the EU will instantly create a shock. It's rather like writing a report that begins "what will happen after the meteorite strikes the Earth..." and then assuming from that point onwards that a meteorite has indeed struck just because you've asserted that it will. Most of the macroeconomic assumptions are based off this idea, with gloomy headlines about managing the transition to a less open and competitive economy.
If you want to know why economists keep fucking up their forecasts, this is a prime example of how it happens. They frequently pick an end point having made a lot of highly dubious assumptions and then try to draw a line that connects the starting dot to the dot they've positioned at the end, which naturally leads to a line that looks very odd because its path has been pre-determined and has to wind its way through a series of increasingly bizarre twists and turns in order to make the numbers fit the end argument. For example the Treasury seems to have no satisfactory explanation as to why the UK economy would shrink by 0.1% in the first quarter post-referendum and then keep shrinking at the exact same rate for the next three quarters afterwards before beginning to recover. It's almost like someone took the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) projected UK growth figures over the same period (0.6% growth per quarter) and just went "erm, let's take 0.7% off shall we?". So the UK economy magically contracts in that first quarter by 0.7% compared to current growth predictions, but then remarkably it immediately stabilises to 0.1% contraction for the next few quarters, and then magically begins to start growing again at a decent rate after that.
If it looks and sounds like someone has just generated a minus figure using a calculation and then simply applied that same figure to all the OBRs forecasts for the next few years then that's probably because that is exactly what appears to have happened. There is no other explanation for their insanely neat and tidy forecast. Why does the economy suffer such a severe contraction immediately for example, but then just kind of dribble along in a nice controlled manner after that? Where are the knock on effects on growth caused by that big drop at the beginning? Over four quarters the economy loses 2.8% growth compared to current estimates, including a prediction of 500,000 job losses in the shock scenario or 800,000 in the severe shock scenario, yet magically the economy pops back into life and starts growing again steadily at the other end as if the previous four quarters had never happened.
I can't tell you what kind of economics this is, but it's most certainly not based on any kind of realistic and detailed assessment of the UK economy. This can be backed up by two points inside the document itself. One is where the Treasury tries to make sweeping assumptions about the nature of household spending. This is worth pointing out simply because people are difficult to predict and a frequent mis-step made by economists is to try and predict how people will behave. They assume that every household is well versed in economics and will make the "right" choice, or at least the choice that the economist desires. Frequently though the general public lacks both the information required to make such decisions and the understanding of economics on such a large scale. As a result they tend to act very differently to the way the models say they will, not least because many people simply have different personalities, circumstances and outlooks. Not everyone views warnings of a year long recession as a time to trade in their car for a more economical model and start hoarding money in a savings account. Frankly a lot of people are so poor that "saving" in the economist's sense of the word is simply not possible.
The second point is the fact that the Treasury's assessment makes no attempt to model any kind of monetary or fiscal policy reaction by the government and the Bank of England. For those not sure, "monetary policy" relates to the control of the money supply by targeting the rates of interest and inflation, whereas "fiscal policy" relates broadly to things like taxation and investment by the government. And just to clarify, yes, that means the Treasury's analysis is based on the idea that the government would simply sit on its arse and do nothing while the walls crumbled around them in these shock scenarios. Apparently they wouldn't like to comment on what a future government might do in response to the shock, despite the fact that a) unless there is a coup in the making already, then the future government will be exactly the same as the current one, and b) they're more than happy to make a bunch of massive guesses about the economy based on bizarre numbers, dubious assumptions, and looking out as many as 15 years into the future. I would posit to anyone reading this that it would probably be easier to predict this governments and the Bank of England's future fiscal and monetary policy than it would be to try and make a prediction about what a post-Brexit economy might look like in 15 years.
Now just sit back and digest that for a second. They're making a prediction about a shock effect on the economy which entirely rests on the idea that the government and Bank of England would make no effort to intervene. None. So what's the point in even making an analysis like that? You're basically saying this; "here's what will happen in a future scenario that will never actually happen". You might as well write an economic forecast for Narnia or Middle Earth for all it's worth.
This whole matter is complicated by the Treasury's insistence in only looking at the negatives. For example when talking about a potential drop in the pound it goes to great lengths to mention only the bits about imports becoming more expensive and the effect this would have on household spending. It declines to point out that exports would also become more affordable for foreign customers (there's a reason why some of the top exporting nations in the world have significantly weaker currencies than ours). At the same time the Treasury attempts to have its cake and eat it.
Why? Because it ignores the simple fact that the day after the referendum, even in the event of a vote to leave, the UK would still be a member of the EU. This is an important point that keeps getting swept under the rug for some reason. Until the UK actually agrees some kind of deal with the EU (or not, as the case may be), it will remain a member of the EU. It will continue to be bound by the EU rules and regulations, as will other member states in regards to the UK. Part of the Treasury's assumption is based on the idea that prices will immediately rise due to tariff increases on trade with Europe, while seemingly ignoring the fact that tariffs and other trade barriers would stay exactly as they are. I say "seemingly ignoring" because the only other possible explanation is that they're simply too stupid to realise this and that the whole document was devised off calculations on the back of a packet of fags by some unpaid intern. Though given the state of the document that's looking increasingly likely as a possibility.
They also make the assumption that businesses from outside the EU would be uncertain about the tariff and regulatory regime, which would cause the UK problems in the short term. But again, look at the above. The UK would remain a member of the EU. Nothing would change overnight. The UK would exist and trade as it always has done until a new deal was signed, by which point the details would be a lot clearer. And given the time it will take to agree a deal with the EU it's not like there will be no advanced warning about the kind of regime that will exist in the future, not least because I suspect in the event of a vote to leave Cameron will attempt to take the path of least resistance and sign a deal that ties the UK as closely possible to the EU without being in it, which is the worst of all possible outcomes. Countries the globe over will simply continue to be able to trade on the same terms as they do now, the complete opposite of what the Treasury is saying. Or in other words, the Treasury is telling out right, bare faced lies.
Other assumptions made? That all businesses would be affected equally. In reality only around 6% of UK businesses actually export goods to the EU. Now that figure masks a number of businesses that are suppliers to other UK firms that export to the EU and rely heavily on that business, but it does give a good indication of the fact that really not that much of the UK economy is actually dependent on the EU. The UK economy has a highly advanced internal market and combined with non-EU trade is more than capable of looking after itself. Proof? Look at the state of the EU right now in terms of growth and unemployment figures across the continent. And then look at the UK. Even as Europe struggles to get to grips with the Eurozone crisis which - despite not featuring much in the media anymore - is still well and truly happening, the UK has continued to grow. Because although the UK does plenty of business with the EU and a slowing down in one can cause problems for the other, fundamentally the UK's economy is not tied exclusively to Europe. The Treasury's document assumes a gross over reaction by the bulk of the economy, including a lot of businesses that would not immediately be affected (or indeed expect to be affected at all to any great degree) suddenly having a massive collective panic attack.
As indicators the Treasury has tried to point to a slow down in the commercial property sector as an example that the country is getting spooked and businesses are slowing their investment. In the process of rushing to make this dire warning it seems the Treasury either rather blithely or, rather deliberately, overlooked a survey of members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which back in April noted that a buy-to-let rush at the beginning of the year had now subsided ahead of changes to stamp duty. It's chief economist has also gone on record as saying that he and his members expect house prices to continue rising irrespective of the referendum result (and thus counter to a central claim by the Treasury in this report) due to that old and true rule of economics; supply and demand (remember what I said earlier about making assumptions about what people will do to make your model fit vs reality?). The only people that really need to worry are the owners of properties in London with a value in excess of £1 million, which credit rating agency Moody's says might be affected to due to a reduction in demand from wealthy Europeans (though treat Moody's with a pinch of salt as they don't exactly have a great record at, err, rating credit worthiness as it turns out). Everyone also seems to acknowledge that the housing market in the south-east might be a bit overheated as it is and that eventually that mini-bubble is going to resolve itself one way or another.
The Treasury also tried to back up its claims with a couple of very vague boxes on the aviation and car industries. They didn't really say anything much about them other than to highlight their size and issue some vague warning about jobs and uncertainty. This was amusing for several reasons. Firstly because just last year the Chief Executive of Airbus stated that he had no intention of pulling manufacturing out of the UK if the country voted to leave the EU. So scratch that one off. In the car industry, bosses of companies such as Vauxhall, Bentley, Opel, Honda, Toyota and Nissan - who between them account for the bulk of UK car manufacturing - have all said that a referendum would not cause them any problems they haven't already accounted for. They've known for a long time that a referendum would be coming at some point and have made their investment decisions with this already in mind. Those decisions being to stick with the UK, Brexit or not. Basically they all seem quite sanguine about the future, understanding that the UK offers a range of advantages over other countries that go beyond mere matters of potential tariffs (not least the fact that a trade war on cars is absolutely not one that the EU wants to get involved in). Then there's the small matter of how difficult and expensive it actually is to set up a brand new plant somewhere else, assemble the needed supply chain, and then recruit and train a workforce from scratch.
I agree with the Treasury only in the sense that I think some suppliers to these industries will take caution in the run up to the referendum. They will be less certain about the true position of their large customers and their future production levels and will act accordingly. This is simply a byproduct of their place in the food chain and the fact they don't have enough hard information to work with so will naturally have to tread with a little caution until they know more. It's unavoidable on their part and I fully accept that. There will be other businesses that feel the same and will likely undergo hiring freezes until they know more about what is to come, but this is hardly the "shock" predicted by the Treasury. I did find it amusing though that the Treasury persisted with its line about regulations and the dire warning that the EU will become a different beast altogether for aviation, automotive and maritime industries to deal with. I laugh because a lot of aviation and maritime standards are set internationally and because I remind you again that the UK would remain a part of the EU until such time as a new deal is struck. If after that the EU wants to impose new, tighter regulations such as on noise or pollution then it can. It will only drive more transiting aviation traffic from the US to the middle east and Africa (and vice versa) into UK airports for their stop overs.
The Treasury also talked a bit about trade. Here it made some interesting and quite ridiculous claims. Again it tried to push the idea of tariffs without acknowledging the UK's continued presence in the EU. It completely ignored the possibility of reducing tariffs and other barriers by the UK which is one of the prime advantages of withdrawing from the EU in the long run. It made the mistake of assuming that because the UK is a smaller economy than the EU that it would have a tougher time striking a deal, again ignoring the body of evidence that already exists that smaller countries generally find it easier to cut trade deals due to their more focused economies (see the China/Switzerland, China/New Zealand free trade agreements as examples. You can't look at the EU's FTA with China because it doesn't have one...)
The Treasury also went on to make the absurd claim that the UK would struggle to sign deals because other countries were already busy negotiating with the EU. Maybe it's because the UK has been out of the Free Trade Agreement business for a while and as such has lost the corporate knowledge, but remarkably most countries don't just have one guy sitting in an office somewhere working on all his countries FTAs by himself. Generally a country, especially one with a bit of cash to spare, can afford to hire teams to deal with the day to day detail of each negotiation, which then needs to be bumped up to the ministerial level for approval before signing and ratifying. That's a slight simplification, but it's vastly closer to the truth than the idea that the rest of the world would be too busy to sign terms with the UK because they were still preoccupied splitting hairs with the EU. Indeed most countries - miraculously if you're to believe the Treasury and the Remain campaign - manage to negotiate with multiple potential partners all at the same time. I can't help but be excited by the potential coup that would take place if the UK could manage to complete Brexit and still conclude some trade deals with countries before the EU did.
And it's worth noting that despite claims that the UK would have to return to the drawing board and renegotiate deals with countries that already have agreements with the EU, what is actually more likely is that the UK could simply use these existing deals as a framework to continue trade and sign a new deal. It would disadvantage neither the UK nor the countries in question to do so as these are the terms under which they trade already. The advantage of course from the UK's perspective is that with its new found freedom and no obligation to protect certain EU industries from foreign competition, the UK could add sweeteners to the existing agreements in order to get these deals pushed through and in place ready for when the UK finalises the details of a Brexit. In can also of course just unilaterally reduce current tariffs charged by the EU in order to open up its markets and reduce prices for consumers, embracing the concept once again of being a trading nation, something which the Treasury seems very disinclined to mention in its biased forecast... err, I mean, independent analysis.
It's also interesting to note that among the Treasury's gloomy predictions on trade there is no mention of the number of countries such as Mexico that have already come forward and said they would look to actively secure an FTA with the UK in the event of Brexit. Funny that isn' it? You'd have thought the country's very own treasury department would have taken something as important as that into account when it produced this impartial and independent economic forecas... analysis. It's almost like they didn't want to draw attention to it. Just as a side note, I wonder how those investigations into alleged Conservative electoral fraud are coming along.
Next chuckle comes from the Treasury's claim that there would be uncertainty over the UK's legal and regulatory framework. Odd, considering that every directive that has ever been passed down from Brussels is turned into law by parliament. And while the EU has many powers, it cannot simply undo UK law. So the day after a referendum the law and regulations of the land would remain exactly as they are, until a formal Brexit, at which point those laws and regulations already in place would continue to exist until such time as the UK government decided to alter them. In fact, far from their being any uncertainty over the UK's legal and regulatory framework, nothing could be clearer. The status quo will prevail until such time as the UK opts to change it.
And that, pretty much is that. That really is all the Treasury had to offer; a bunch of nonsense and scaremongering built on a model of dubious merit, fuelled by assertions of dubious validity, and taking into account nothing but negatives. There are maybe a handful of lines in the whole thing that have any kind of reality to back them up, but otherwise the entire thing is a waste to time, paper and taxpayers money. I'd be interested to know whether this thing is even legal under UK election law as to me it seems very much to be a use of state (i.e. taxpayer) funds to produce a biased, politically motivated document, on a similar line to the leaflet they pushed out a while back. How can this possibly be seen as anything else? What it most certainly is not is a balanced and impartial study of the economy post-referendum.
Posted by Chris at 11:47 pm