France has offered the UK the use of French Navy amphibious assault ships should the Albion class be retired multiple sources have reported today.
According to two senior French military officials quoted in the Financial Times:
“We have three very capable ships. The idea is that in the case of one of the two countries having to reduce certain capabilities because of budgetary constraints we could mitigate the consequences by standing shoulder to shoulder.”
Tory MP Andrew Bowie, who served in the Royal Navy before being elected to Parliament, told Mail Online in one of their recent articles:
“The British and French navies, as close allies have cooperated for many years and I’m sure their offer comes in good faith.But it really does stick in the craw.
To see the Royal Navy, once the most powerful and feared navy in the word, begging and borrowing from our neighbours across the Channel would be a national embarrassment and would demean us in the eyes of our allies and partners. I hope the Government can put this to bed once and for all and guarantee the future of our amphibious capability, independent of other nations.”
What’s going to happen?
Simply put, very few if any people outside of Whitehall know the answer to this. A letter written by Minister for Defence Procurement Harriet Baldwin in January had denied there are any ‘current plans’ to retire the Albion class amphibious warfare vessels early.
However, the Minister refused to confirm that was still the case during a debate in Westminster Hall prompting fears this has changed. The letter deposited in the House of Commons Library in January, was written after the question of the future of HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark was raised on the Floor of the House of Commons.
She said at the time:
“There are no current plans to decommission the ships early, and I can reassure you that their out of service dates are 2033 and 2034 respectively.”
Baldwin, when asked if this was still the case, appeared to entirely dodge the question:
“I can indeed confirm that I not only wrote those words but that I also I recall writing them.”
She later added:
“The work of the National Security Review is ongoing and no decisions have been put to Ministers.”
It would appear that decisions have not yet been made or at least, the decisions have not been made known.