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Antony Antoniou – Reform UK Northampton North
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
(PPC) 2024 General Election


The Red Sea Debacle Exposes Gaps in UK Defence


In the world of naval operations, setbacks and challenges are par for the course. However, when the Secretary of the Navy of a major ally publicly calls for increased defense spending, it’s a red flag that can’t be ignored. The recent visit of Secretary Del Toro to the UK highlighted the stark contrast between the capabilities of the US and Royal Navies. The ensuing discussion brought to light a series of concerns, including recruitment struggles, global hotspots, and the urgent need for adequate funding.

The Red Sea Crisis:

The Red Sea has become a focal point for naval activities, showcasing the intricate web of global interdependencies. Despite defensive efforts transitioning into offensive operations, shipping through crucial chokepoints like the Bab el Mandeb and the Suez Canal has plummeted, causing a ripple effect on global trade. Container ship transits are down by a staggering 80%, with significant economic consequences, as highlighted by a report from LSEG Shipping Research.

US Naval Dominance:

The US Navy, with its inherent commitment to ‘freedom of navigation,’ has positioned an aircraft carrier and five escorts in the Red Sea – a force larger than the entire Royal Navy’s escort fleet. This stark reality raises questions about the contributions of other nations and underscores the importance of maintaining open sea lanes. Secretary Del Toro emphasized the frustration felt when political agendas and talk of a Euro-solution fall short of practical commitments.

Global Naval Challenges:

The discussion extended beyond the Red Sea, delving into other contested regions like the Black Sea, the Arctic, and the Southern and Eastern China Seas. The increasing belligerence of China and the encircling of Taiwan pose significant geopolitical challenges. The complexity of these situations demands robust naval capabilities, making the case for sustained investment and international cooperation.

Recruitment and Retention Woes:

Naval recruiting and retention emerged as a global concern, with maritime recruitment down 9% across the board. The UK Armed Forces are grappling with diminishing numbers, prompting a need for strategic solutions. Conversations about delayed training and bureaucratic inefficiencies leading to a shortage of skilled personnel underscore the urgency of addressing these issues.

The Funding Black Hole:

As the world faces mounting uncertainties, the Haythornthwaite Review of Armed Forces Incentivisation has yet to yield tangible results. The UK Government’s lukewarm approach to defense spending, with promises contingent on economic conditions, is no longer sufficient. The US Secretary of the Navy’s polite yet stern call for increased commitment echoes the sentiment that more funding is imperative for maintaining a robust defense infrastructure.


The Red Sea crisis serves as a wake-up call for the UK, prompting a reevaluation of defense priorities. The challenges extend beyond naval capabilities to encompass recruitment, retention, and global strategic concerns. As the world navigates through troubled waters, the call for increased defense spending and strategic planning is louder than ever. It’s time for the UK to heed the advice, do better, and ensure the security of its maritime interests in an ever-changing geopolitical landscape.

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Andrew Wilcox
Andrew Wilcox
2 months ago

Our defence has been badly neglected, we spend billions on scroungers, yet we do not invest enough into the security of our country, outrageous!