British armed forces are going to face major cuts if Britons vote to leave the European Union (EU) in a referendum later this month, UK Chancellor of Exchequer George Osborne has warned.
In an interview with the Sun, Osborne said that up to £1.5 billion in cuts were awaiting the country’s military forces which would result in ditching plans to purchase a modern generation of warships, fighter jets and other gear.
“I’d have to start cutting key budgets like defense. I’ve looked at the numbers and it looks like defense would have to be cut by between £1 billion and £1.5 billion,” said Osborne, who is the country’s chief financial minister.
He said cutting the country’s budget would be “the last thing I want to do,” but if the Leave campaign prevails in the June 23 vote “Britain is smaller and so our Armed Forces will be smaller and that means fewer planes, ships and personnel to defend us.”
The head of the UK treasury said the cuts will be applied in order to plug a £20 billion to £40 billion hole in public finance that will emerge after leaving the EU.
“You can’t leave the defense budget untouched. We would have to look at the kit and the personnel. In the end, you have to make your budget fit the money coming in,” he noted.
Describing the issue as “an entirely self-inflicted wound,” Osborne further warned that leaving the bloc would take the UK “straight back into the darkness.”
The chancellor’s warnings against leaving the EU fall in line with similar statements made by Prime Minister David Cameron and other government officials who unanimously say the move would weaken the country’s economy and undermine its security.
However, there are key political figures, like former mayor of London Boris Johnson, who say leaving the EU would allow Britain to take back control over major issues like immigration.
A poll, carried out by YouGov in The Sunday Times until June 10, showed that 50½% of respondents wanted the UK to leave the EU and 49½% voted to remain in the bloc.