Liam Fox and the Treasury at war over Trident

Treasury insists £97bn cost of replacing Trident must come out of the core MoD budget.

Liam Fox hasn't had the best of starts to ministerial life. He embarrassed the coalition with his unfortunate description of Afghanistan as a "broken, 13th-century country" (an offence that earned him the sobriquet "13th-century Fox") and he angered David Cameron with his surprise announcement of Sir Jock Stirrup's resignation as Chief of the Defence Staff.

Now he's been told by the Treasury that the £97bn cost of renewing Trident must come out of the Ministry of Defence's core budget. As today's FT reports, Fox had previously assumed that the coalition would abide by Labour's pledge to ring-fence spending on Trident from that on conventional defence equipment.

Unlike most departments, the MoD isn't facing cuts of 25 per cent (as with education, it will receive preferential treatment), but cuts of at least 10 per cent remain a certainty. With this in mind, the cost of absorbing Trident into the core budget is, as one MoD official put it, "prohibitively expensive".

Were Treasury austerity to lead to the abandonment of this national virility symbol we would at least have one thing to thank George Osborne for.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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