Friday, 1 Mar 2024

Ben Wallace rubbishes reports that Germany picked over UK for Nato force leader

Defence secretary Ben Wallace has said claims that Nato opposes putting the UK in charge of the alliance’s ­rapid reaction force are ‘just b******s’.

The minister rubbished German media reports that Berlin had been asked to stay at the helm for an extra year as Britain’s depleted army was not up to the job.

Nato was said to be worried the UK could not handle leading the first line of defence if Russia invades a member state.

But Mr Wallace told BBC Breakfast: ‘The story of ­Germany, it’s just b******s, right? I mean, to be honest, the simple reality is Nato ­leadership did not approach anybody.

‘We are taking over the Nato Response Force as ­scheduled and it’s interesting that story is based on a source on a German ­website I’ve never heard of.’

He admitted ‘defence for the last 30 years was hollowed out’ but said the government had upped spending by billions.

The Daily Telegraph reported French officials have been raising concerns with Nato allies about Britain’s armed forces.

But Mr Wallace, who is in Brussels for a meeting of Nato defence ministers, said the problems were not unique to the UK. ‘Ukraine has exposed across Europe – including in France and in Germany and other nations – our own vulnerabilities,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

His comments come amid a reported row with the Treasury, with Mr Wallace said to be pressing for a £10billion increase in defence spending in next month’s Budget. Speaking to Sky News, he acknowledged an ‘uphill battle’ but denied he was threatening to resign.

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