It has been reported this morning that work on the Fleet Solid Support Ships could go to Spain to silence Gibraltar claims.

First reported by the Daily Record here, it has been claimed that the £1 billion order for the ships is ‘being steered’ towards a Spanish yard in a deal over Gibraltar. The paper reports that:

“Senior GMB officials are furious over reports that the Navantia naval dockyard in the north of Spain has been chosen to build Fleet Solid Support vessels.”

As a point of clarification in response to remarks on social media about this topic, this news (if true) would impact Rosyth and not the Clyde. The Clyde isn’t bidding for this work (Rosyth is), the Clyde has no capacity to build the vessels (Rosyth does) and the Clyde wasn’t hoping for them (Rosyth is). We go into depth on this here.

GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith said:

“We have been clear that the contracts for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels hold the key to the transformation of our shipbuilding sector.

Three 40,000-ton vessels would provide years of work for yards like Rosyth, where we are haemorrhaging jobs.”

Smith added: “Our fear is that working class shipbuilding communities have just had their futures sold down the river as a result of grubby Brexit politics. Against the backdrop of a ruinous Brexit, the loss of the RFAs would be an absolute betrayal of the UK shipbuilding sector by the Tory Government.”

Stewart McDonald, MP for Glasgow South and SNP Spokesperson for Defence, told me this morning:

“If UK and Scottish Shipbuilders are overlooked as suggested, then it will represent another betrayal of the workforce from which the Conservatives will not deserve to recover.”

Paul Sweeney, MP for Glasgow North East and All-Party Parliamentary Group for Shipbuilding & Ship Repair Vice-Chair, also told me this morning in reference to a recent debate (which will be explored further down in the article):

“It was telling that the Defence Procurement minister made no reply to the questions raised about the Fleet Solid Support ships in the debate this week and perhaps this is the reason why. The economic case for building the £1Bn FSS programme in the UK is self-evident and it nothing more than laissez faire Treasury dogma that is denying British industry this opportunity when it is the most beneficial option for the British economy and the long-term sustainability of the British shipbuilding industry.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said:

“We are required by law to procure the Fleet Solid Support ships through open international competition. We issued formal tender documents to bidders in late 2018. The final decision regarding the winning bid will be made in 2020.”

What’s the gist of the dispute around these support ships?

Former shipyard worker turned MP for Glasgow North East Paul Sweeney had earlier criticised the Government on their stance over the tendering process for these ships during a recent debate on UK sovereign capability. He pointed out:

“The Government’s approach to the fleet solid support ships contract is nothing short of absurd. The decision not to factor the socioeconomic value of defence contracts into the procurement process is economically illiterate and flies in the face of common sense. The Minister and I have batted this back and forth, as I mentioned, and I am sure that in a few minutes he will tell me that it is all about value for money for the taxpayer.

However, that argument falls apart because the contract’s socioeconomic value is not factored in at the procurement stage. The reported cost of the contract is £1 billion, but as studies such as those by the GMB union estimate, keeping the contract in the UK would secure up to 6,500 high-paid, high-skilled jobs, including almost 2,000 shipbuilding jobs that pay about 45% more than the average UK salary. Just think of the difference those jobs could make to the UK economy and to communities across Scotland.

At Rosyth, there is a gap between the completion of HMS Prince of Wales later this year and the expected refit of HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2030. The contract for the fleet solid support ships could ensure that the shipyard runs at smoother capacity during that timeframe. However, as I have said, the Government’s economic illiteracy could well prevent that from happening, leading to much greater inefficiency and costs down the line. I am sure the people of Fife will not let them get away with that. The Government are keen to celebrate the continuous at-sea deterrent, but I would much rather see continuous in-shipyard building across the country. We would far rather celebrate that.

That brings me to the fact that there is clearly no wider industrial strategy not only for the defence sector but for manufacturing as a whole. To use Fife as an example, the Government are refusing to keep the FSS contract in the UK. At the same time, not even 10 miles away, the BiFab yards in Burntisland are sitting there idle because of a lack of contracts. That is another example of the Government’s complete and utter short-sightedness.”

Stuart Andrew, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, replied with only a vague allusion to the points made:

“I want to emphasise the importance of the UK’s defence industry, both in delivering world-class military capabilities to our armed forces and in contributing to the UK economy. Last year’s report into the contribution of defence to UK prosperity by my right hon. Friend Mr Dunne showed that defence benefits every single part of the United Kingdom. It is a sector with an annual turnover of £22 billion supporting some 115,000 jobs. Scotland shares in that national success by benefiting directly from every pound spent on our defence, which is in itself the biggest defence budget in Europe.

The report highlighted the range and diversity of the defence industry across the whole of the UK, including in Scotland, and the UK Government’s support for the defence industry in Scotland. Last year, defence spend with industry in Scotland amounted to £1.65 billion, supporting some 10,000 jobs and equivalent to £300 per capita, which is above the UK average.”

The above is some more context on what Paul told me this morning, which was in reference to the recent debate (the full text of which can be found here, but I have repeated Paul’s response below):

“It was telling that the Defence Procurement minister made no reply to the questions raised about the Fleet Solid Support ships in the debate this week and perhaps this is the reason why.

The economic case for building the £1Bn FSS programme in the UK is self-evident and it nothing more than laissez faire Treasury dogma that is denying British industry this opportunity when it is the most beneficial option for the British economy and the long-term sustainability of the British shipbuilding industry.”

What’s the status of Rosyth?

Rosyth during the build of the two new carriers.

Earlier in the year, the shipbuilding union GMB also reacted to 150 proposed job losses at Babcock Rosyth. The union cited the run down of the Prince of Wales contract and uncertainty around future workload, for example this FSS contract, as a reason for the job losses.

Ross Murdoch, GMB National Officer and CSEU National Chair of Shipbuilding:

“Once again we are paying the price for the Government’s betrayal of UK shipbuilding. Rather than ensure a steady drumbeat of shipbuilding orders that keep the industry alive, the Conservatives seem content to let UK shipbuilding die out in the name of the free market. Appledore is on the brink of closure, Cammell Laird is slashing jobs and now this. When will the Government step in to save our centuries old shipbuilding heritage.”

The Unite union also said the news was a “kick in the teeth”. Steve Turner, the union’s assistant general secretary for manufacturing, said:

“The men and women whose skills built the UK’s two new world-leading aircraft carriers at Rosyth are at risk of being lost for a generation in a blow to the Scottish economy and UK shipbuilding.”

Who is bidding?

It is hoped that the bid will be won by Team UK (a UK consortium consisting of Babcock International, BAE Systems, Cammell Laird and Rolls-Royce).

Overseas shipyards who have been invited to tender for the FSS programme include:

  • Fincantieri: 70% owned by Fintecna S.p.A the Italian owned investment agency
  • Navantia: 100% owned by the Spanish government
  • Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME): received a USD 6billion rescue package from the Korean Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of Korea

Can the UK government decide to restrict this contract to the UK?

Recently Sweeney (and many others from all sides of the Parliamentary divide) criticised the Government for failing to restrict the tendering for Fleet Solid Support Ships to the UK.

This isn’t the first time the Government rationale for tendering Fleet Solid Support Ships overseas criticised, especially with regards to what some have referred to as their “questionable usage” of Article 346.

What is Article 346?

EU law requires most government contracts to be procured via an open, competitive process. The main EU legislation in the defence domain is the Defence and Security Directive 2009/81/EC, transposed into UK law by Defence and Security Public Contracts Regulations 2011.13

However, Article 346 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) provides for an exemption to the procurement rules where a country considers it to be necessary for national security reasons: “any Member State may take such measures as it considers necessary for the protection of the essential interests of its security which are connected with the production of or trade in arms, munitions and war material”. Article 346 refers to a list drawn up in 1958 by the Council of Ministers of products to which the provisions

During a previous debate on UK sovereign capability, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Shipbuilding & Ship Repair Vice-Chair Sweeney said:

“In the context of major shipyard closures and significant downsizing, whether that is at Rosyth or Appledore, it is bizarre that the Government are quite happy to tender contracts overseas in international open competition.

Under article 346 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union, the Government could quite easily designate the industry as UK protected. It is entirely at their discretion. Any notion that their hands are tied is bogus.

They could do that, smooth the production cycles and build a firm and stable footprint for UK shipyards, which would enable them to get match fit and then go out into the world and compete effectively for other orders. That is exactly what they do in Italy with Fincantieri, and what they do in France with DCNS. It is exactly what happens in Germany.

I do not understand why other European Union member states can achieve the same objectives much more effectively than us, but we are so holier than thou that it hurts when it comes to the zealous application of these EU rules and we seem to undermine our own industrial base and our prosperity as a result, meaning that communities are broken and skills are lost. Ultimately, we undermine our objective of building a more resilient and effective industrial base to serve our defence industry and, potentially, commercial spin-offs.”

This was also highlighted during the debate in this exchange, prompted by Stuart Andrew, Minister for Defence Procurement, saying the following:

“It is not a warship by definition, for the simple reason that the definition is based on the UK’s requirement to retain the ability to design, build and integrate frigates, destroyers and aircraft carriers for reasons of national security, ensuring that the complex nature of the construct is an important part of it from the very beginning. We will continue to have this argument—unions are coming to meet me very soon to discuss it.”

Sweeney responded:

“The Minister’s last remark about the need to maintain the UK’s sovereign capability to build complex warships being arbitrarily restricted to frigates, destroyers and aircraft carriers, the only reason we can build those ships in the UK today is that the last Labour Government placed an order for an auxiliary ship, the RFA Wave Ruler, at Govan shipyard in 1999, which enabled that yard to continue in operation.

Also, there are five River class batch 2 patrol vessels being built at Govan to sustain production there until the Type 26 kicks in. By utilising those less complex, but none the less complex, warships to smooth the build cycle, we can retain the skills, infrastructure and critical mass we need to build complex warships including frigates, destroyers and aircraft carriers. 

We must look beyond that arbitrary restriction and maximise the purchasing power of the Ministry of Defence to deliver UK sovereign capability in the long term. We should broaden our horizons.”

Why do some believe the work should be restricted to the UK?

Unions GMB and the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU), also published reports last year outlining why they believe the ships should be classified as warships and why they should be competed domestically. The Unions arguments can be summarised as:

  • The FSS should be seen as warships. They are armed and take part in counter-piracy and counter-narcotic missions;
  • The Government’s commitment to revitalising domestic naval shipbuilding (as espoused in the National Shipbuilding Strategy) will only be achievable with a steady stream of orders;
  • Building the FSS in the UK will help protect the UK shipbuilding industry, protect jobs and retain skills: GMB estimates up to 6,500 jobs could be created or secured, including 1,805 shipyard jobs;
  • Rosyth shipyard will have a gap between the completion of HMS Prince of Wales (the second aircraft carrier) in 2019 and the expected refit of HMS Queen Elizabeth (the first aircraft carrier) in 2030, and FSS work could keep the shipyard operational in between these dates;
  • The UK will financially benefit from returns to the Treasury in the form of taxes and national insurance contributions and lower welfare payments: GMB estimates £285m of the estimated £1bn contract could be returned to taxpayers this way; CSEU estimates 20% of the contract cost could be returned to the Treasury;
  • The Government should factor in the revenue that could be returned to the Treasury when scoring bids between domestic suppliers and foreign competitors;
  • There isn’t a level playing field as, the CSEU argues, “many foreign yards are either state owned, or receive significant direct or indirect subsidy… UK yards do not benefit in this way and are therefore at an unfair disadvantage.”

The Trades Union Congress has also assessed the Article 346 exemption argument and argues the Government “has the sole right to determine” what its essential national security interests are.

The TUC claims “other European nations have used the exemption to place orders for similar support ships with their own shipyards since the Directive was introduced.”

What’s next?

December this year will see the formal issue of documentation inviting bids for the design and build contract and in 2020, the contract for design and build is to be awarded.

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Gavin Gordon

B…s – wouldn’t stop the Gib clamour anyway


Even ignoring the details and arguments of the EU rules there is no linkage to Gib.

And we should not have to abide by these rules anyway if it suits our security and our economy. But certainly the Treasury want to suck up to the EU. Hammond has been very poor.


There’s no restriction for doing this in the UK, as can be seen by such ships being built in other EU countries, this is just another UK decision that’s passing the blame to the EU.


I think this is totally made up fake news. It sounds implausible and would make no sense at all to either Spain or the UK.


The fact that this contract is out to open tender makes no sense either, Lee. Hasn’t stopped it happening. On the Spanish side, it certainly makes sense: they’re never getting Gibraltar by maintaining claims that have no support in international law, so at least dropping them this way gets them a nice juicy contract. On our side, the tragedy we call a government removes a roadblock to Brexit negotiations, which to them is great. Except it’s not Spain or even the EU causing all this mess, it’s the government and Parliament itself. Meanwhile, they go on blissfully ignoring the real… Read more »


So very true short terms prevails as usual in British Political Thinking. I wonder if they will be named after the Spanish Royal Family too… or maybe after ships of the Armada that should gain us an extra year or so of their silence. Difficult not to be cynical.


Open tender does make some sense. The idea that the Spanish would agree to lay down their claims to Gibraltar on the basis that they get a few ship builds is ludicrous. In the world of Fake news this is the perfect story to show how to spot it… It appeals to those that fail to think before they post though and to those that operate on feelings rather than sense, so it is the perfect story to make up in order to get some papers sold.


Open tender would make sense if everyone was competing to offer the lowest price, but given that it’s another fixed price contract for £1bn there’s no actual competition involved (unless I’ve misunderstood the phrase “£1bn contract”). From all the information available to us, to the unions, to the shipbuilders, and to MPs, the question is basically “pay £1bn overseas and lose Rosyth, or pay ~£800mn, sustain Rosyth, and protect thousands of jobs?” I agree with you regarding fake news. As far as things go, this IS the perfect fake news story: ludicrous enough to get a response, but just believable… Read more »


a Fixed Price Contract does not mean they will not try to get the cheapest price it means that the contract will be agreed for a fixed price (ie the price is known and fixed at time of signing the contract) This just ensures that any over runs etc do not impact on the agreed amount. If a foreign yard offers to build them for £500 million and a UK yard offers to build them for £1.5 billion then it would obviously be best to go with the foreign yard. If the UK yard is only a little bit over… Read more »


It means that foreign yatrd is subsidized. If the Uk consortium come in at 1 Billion pounds, the report by Team provider or and GMB turning the tide give net cost at over 50% clawback, not including the benifits of investment in people and facilites as part of the condition and money staying withingn the UK. if this is true and political, we have no shipbuilding strategy and we may as well forget it. What and who really decline a sector and Country?


I hope this doesn’t happen, if it does then we know the government actually really doesn’t care about ship building in the UK…..


The Tories are still in Thatcher mode Im afraid whereby the myth that industry is not important to our economy still prevails, despite pretty much everyone who isn’t in that out of date mindset says different and that a balanced economy is vital. We will no doubt discover this the hard way when so many of our Finance and even Services jobs start to dissipate abroad over the coming years. Oh and of course it breaks the power of those pesky Unions which though effectively long achieved (apart from railways) I am sure so many in the Government are still… Read more »


Anyone wanting to understand the problems with overly powerful Unions need to revisit the horror that was 70’s UK. Unions have a place but that place is in looking after workers against poor employers rather than running a political party and holding the country to ransom. Militant Unions are bad, moderate unions are good.


Another sellout! What guarantees do we have that IF we give these ship(s) contracts and they are built by the El Tapas nation for us that they, just at the end of shipbuilding just again reclaim their stance on ownership of Gibraltar?! Nothing. It’s like the same situation Kraft made with Cadbury, where Kraft made guarantees that it would not move Cadbury operations out of the UK if the takeover was completed but just a few years later it moved Cadbury operations out of the UK.

When will we ever learn?!

Rob T

Where has this report come from? Presumably a leak and let’s hope they thoroughly investigate it!


Why are HMG trying to pay off the Spanish ? The people of Gibraltar have made their opinion perfectly clear. Does anyone believe that future Spanish governments would accept that their historic claim of sovereignty is waffle and not continue the current idiotic behaviour ? SMH.

George Chase

This matter will never ever silence the spanish over the matter of Gibraltar. Anyone who thinks that is living in cuckoo land.
The matter of Gibraltar serves to filter the National governments problems at home away for the period of their internal problems, of which there are many. This is another blind folded attitude by the U.K. government to appease a foreign government who does not like, will never like the U.K. anyone who holidays in Spain is welcomed by a two faced nation. The Spanish DO NOT LIKE THE BRITS, but LOVE OUR MONEY.


The government’s argument is spurious and is making false equivalencies- and the unions and anyone else that cares about British industry should call them out on it. Article 346 part b states (in full): “any Member State may take such measures as it considers necessary for the protection of the essential interests of its security which are connected with the production of or trade in arms, munitions and war material; such measures shall not adversely affect the conditions of competition in the internal market regarding products which are not intended for specifically military purposes.” It makes absolutely no mention of… Read more »


Very good point about the EU law being about security needs and not specifically warships, you should put that in a letter and send it in.

Something that’s also crossed my mind: if they’re only defining warships as frigates, destroyers, and aircraft carriers, where does that leave submarines, or assault ships, or MCMVs? Its such an arbitrary definition that doesn’t reflect the real world at all.


Thanks, if I knew where to send it that it would be read and inform the discussion, I would!
Very fair point, and highlights exactly the stupidity of this “warship clause”; it’s meaningless. I wish I understood why the government as a whole keep using it- as far as I know both Labour and Conservative have? It seems like a willful attempt to let a British industry die. Even the kings of capitalism in America preferentially subsidise the different yards and companies with work, to support a wide industrial base, rather than let an industry whither.


Your own MP is always a good start, it’s their job to represent constituents like you in parliament. Could also try Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth MP and new DSec. If anyone is going to listen to a plea on behalf of the navy, it’s her

Alan Garner

Joe, I agree with your points but I don’t think the unions necessarily “care about British industry”. The people in charge of Britain’s unions are hardcore socialists who’s sole aim is to make any Tory government untenable. Their interest in their members extends only as far as the political and financial power it affords them. These people, and the tactics they employ for political goals, have done as much damage British industry over the years as any of our quisling governments. I wouldn’t ever consider them an ally in a fight for British interests.


Fair point, between them and horrifically arrogant/complacent senior management our domestic mass market auto industry died in a relatively very short period of time.


When will the penny drop in Whitehall, that every project awarded to a foreign builder, is one less opportunity to gain excellence in shipbuilding.

Gavin Gordon

Sorry to be tongue in cheek again, I know it’s risky, but the Penny has just dropped.


I am hoping this is fake news intended to produce an indignant backlash and the reclassification of these ships as warships.

Daniele Mandelli

This sort of thing makes me so cross that I almost wish Corbyn gets in and prioritises British Industry.

I just do not get how the Treasury, civil servants, and successive governments hide behind EU rules that they say they are leaving, reducing our industries as a result.

Is there some grand conspiracy to reduce the UK to a province with no clout?
Nuts I know, makes you wonder with some of these decisions.

As for Spain, leave them out of it. This problem is of HMG’s own making.


Daniele, I am convinced that the main reason our political classes are so unexplainable and totally committed to the EU, is that it both reduces their workload and gives them a useful, faceless and unaccountable body to blame all of their own ineptitude on. I am waiting for the usual comments now about how Corbin is the enemy of defence, despite the current government’s blatant dismantling of national security in the name of profit. He is another idiot who keeps very bad company, but having witnessed, close up the mess over the last 9 years and the relentless enrichment of… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I really don’t know… I read the Manifesto and I like much of it. I then read of his background, and the people in shadow ministerial positions around him, and cringe. Diane Abbott, responsible for the Security Service? Are we mad? I then see his refusal to dine with President Trump, a major UK ally, yet he dines with the Chinese President, who’s actions are arguably worse. As for defence, I watched a clip on Corbyn on BFN – all he mentioned were the surveillance aircraft, which he incorrectly attributed to the RN, the RN “crying out for ships” –… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Hoping some one on the left can correct me on the above, debunk my fears?


Because deafening silence is pretty damning otherwise.


You’re mostly right Daniele, as a Labour member the thought of Abbot in any ministerial role is frightening, although saying that she is evidently a good MP, any MP who isn’t running for PM to increase a majority by 11k and get over 40k votes, some 75% of total votes takes some doing, she serves her constituents well. But as a top minister, no not for me. As I have said before a labour government under current leadership won’t be increasing the defence budget, they won’t involve themselves with any foreign intervention unless it’s UN authorised, my honest assessment is… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Ah, Sole, thank you.

Aware of your tax viewpoint as read that elsewhere.

Good effort, points taken.


Would it not look good on a Labour manifesto to appear to attempt to balance the budget by slashing the defense budget and putting the money into the NHS? Yes the military would wither on the vine but if you have no intention of using it why would you worry. Neither main political parties have historically fought over defense because they understand the need – Jeremy does not. Agreed he would not reduce numbers just decimate the capital expenditure thus endangering lives.



Decent bloke? Whilst his twitter army and spin doctors can do enough to get him off the hook. Look at what he doesn’t do.

He’s protest to get suspected IRA member released from prison. Yet has repeated refused to support British service personnel in similar situations. Has he ever gone to funeral of a member of the UK armed forces?

I don’t think much of our politic class full stop but JC’s on another level.


Here is how you shut up Spain: “STFU we have nuke you don’t. Keep agitating and we recognize Catalonia as independent.” Very simple, direct and to the point.


Their handling of the Catalonia event was appalling. Yes… Britain has had a colourful past too… But the fact they want us to give up Gibraltar while at the very same time not wanting to give up Catalonia just screams hypocrisy to me. Very childish in their naval actions around Gibraltar too.
I truly hope this article is fake.
[email protected]

Chris H

@ Matt The hypocrisy is even worse as Spain maintains sovereign territories in North Africa called Ceuta and Melilla against the locals wishes.

Anyway this whole FSS debacle is utterly shaming …


No, not against the locals wishes.

John Hampson

No.NO.NO. at one of the most important periods in British History we have been cursed with a spineless Prime Minister of more than just historic inadequacy. Her repeated “Brexit means Brexit” assurances were demonstrated to be intentional liies. The Chequers plan revealed she had been conspiring to capiitulate to EU’s demands and had even acted behind the backs of her OWN ministers. Now May’s actions are exceeding honest deceiit. Her active attempts to condemn the UK to inescapable subservience to the EU is betraayal. What do you call a person who, against the explicit will of the majority of British… Read more »

Chris H

@John Hampson – Well yes its very easy to throw those trigger phrases around be persoanally abusive and while I agree we have an unacceptable ‘deal’ and in a mess I will not put the blame entirely at her door. She is facing: * 320+ Remainer MPs (despite most representing Leave Constituencies) * Remainer Tory MPs like Grieve and Soubry out to wreak revenge on her for getting the sack * ‘2nd vote’ LibDems and others who are just out to destroy Brexit * The ERG who are so blinkered and needing a pure Brexit as well as hating the… Read more »


Hmmm, oddly there are a few things there that I partially agree with. One of those odd ‘a broken clock strikes correctly twice a day’ moments. Still plenty wrong but what can one expect… I blame many people but the PM is very high on that ist, Theresa May throwing up crazy red lines at the beginning of the process then triggering Article 50 for short term gain during the party conference season had dire consequences. It made certain that there could be no compromise between Remainers like myself and Leavers like yourself. For example ending Freedom of Movement is… Read more »


Sorry, May is renown for her intransigence, and for only operating in an echo chamber. Not the right person to negotiate or bring people together. You cannot take over three years to get a half assed deal that gives the worst elements of being out of the EU and the worst of being in, then expect everyone to sign up to take joint responsibility to cover your own ineptitude and then unite the country and expect to retain the respect of anyone. I know that democracy is unpopular with the EU and most of our politicians, but I do feel… Read more »


Gorbachev was wrong! The EU is a vastly more democratic organisation than the UK!

Whilst the UK has an unelected upper chamber and an unelected Head of State that will always remain the case.

Chris H

@Fedaykin – I am not going to have a point scoring match with you and I will leave others to judge your comments. But I can summarise your (as in Remainer) attitude with which I disagree strenuously with one or two. Of course you start from the premise that 17.4 Mn people are wrong etc etc, caused a mess etc etc and must be stopped even if that means defying their declared wishes in the biggest electoral event since WWII. Because of course Remainers know better. And this is what has been happening for the last 3 years by various… Read more »


@Chris H “I am not going to have a point scoring match with you and I will leave others to judge your comments.” Thankyou, I will respond nevertheless. “But I can summarise your (as in Remainer) attitude with which I disagree strenuously with one or two.” Your prerogative in a democracy. “Of course you start from the premise that 17.4 Mn people are wrong etc etc” No I don’t, show where I wrote that. I think many of those 17.4Mn had perfectly valid reasons to vote to Leave the EU. Largely the crushing Austerity imposed on them over the previous… Read more »

Chris H

@ Fedaykin – I needed to separate your last comment about the Lords and HM The Queen from your Brexit comments. We have an unwritten Constitution that is flexible but maintains the elected chamber as supreme – ‘Primacy’. The House of Lords is a revising chamber and cannot, and does not, instigate any legislation other than what may be adopted as Government policy or Private Members Bill. In revising Primary and Secondary legislation the HoL CANNOT defy the elected house which retains primacy. (The Salisbury Convention and the Parliament Act refer). And in all cases Lords Amendments are handed back… Read more »


@Chris H – ahhh I see it is subjective then. That the UK has an unelected upper chamber or head of state is perfectly fine and nothing to take issue with because ‘Cromwell tried it not very successfully’ Centuries ago! FYI I am well aware of how the House of Commons works and the conventions of the unwritten Constitution, thanks for bringing that up as well as I regard that as a bad thing vs those nations that have a written one. The only deflection I see is coming from you Chris, your ignorance of how the EU works is… Read more »

Chris H

@Fedaykin – “ahhh I see it is subjective then” No I made a perfectly objective reply to your very subjective (well hilarious to be honest) comment that “The EU is a vastly more democratic organisation than the UK”. I then laid out why you are wrong and once again you demonstrate why it is impossible to have an objective debate when you misrepresent what is said by fabricating I justify my argument because of Cromwell. In Fact you can’t even get that bit right. We have an elected House of Commons which has Primacy in all legislative matters. Therefore the… Read more »


@Chris H I also made a perfectly objective reply correcting your mistakes. “I then laid out why you are wrong and once again you demonstrate why it is impossible to have an objective debate when you misrepresent what is said by fabricating I justify my argument because of Cromwell.” You did justify your argument by citing Cromwell. You can’t pick your own version of reality…oh I forgot you regularly do! “We have an elected House of Commons which has Primacy in all legislative matters. ” I know that. “Therefore the fact the House of Lords ( a merely revising chamber)… Read more »

Chris H

@Fedaykin – I could hardly use Cromwell to justify my argument for a non political Head of State in a Parliamentary Monarchy when he had been DEAD for 2 years before the Restoration! But anyway …. Now I am out of this as we are never going to agree. There are some who disagree with me but do it in a friendly way with us both trying to extract as much from the debate as possible. You Sir are something else and I am a little tired now of the sanctimonious self righteous attitude so embedded within every Remainer I… Read more »


@Chris H I’m hurt Chris I thought we were having a fun time you spouting falsehoods about the EU and its structures followed by me correcting them! “You Sir are something else and I am a little tired now of the sanctimonious self righteous attitude so embedded within every Remainer I have met.” That is alright, I am not as tired with the sanctimonious self righteous attitude so embedded within every Leaver I have met to stop engaging with them. It is so very hard not to be Sarcastic to you Chris! It is a challenge actually… ” I know… Read more »


“* A Labour Party playing party politics with the ONE non-party issue to gain power.” Pretty much agree with that albeit it should be noted that the leadership of the Labour party are Pro-Brexit against the wishes of their party members and voters“ You’re both wrong I’m afraid on that one. Labour members have always supported the leaderships position on Brexit, which is to respect the result of the referendum and leave the EU. Centrist Blairites like Watson and Umunna, backed up by the Bourgeois latte drinking BBC and Guardian play on polls that labour members support a “confirmary vote”… Read more »

Chris H

@Solesurvivor – While I am not 100% in agreement with all you write I can go along with it as part of the discussion. However (sorry!) I would just point out that there is a world of difference between Labour Party Members and Labour Party Voters and my point was that Brexit was non party political at the time of the Referendum but has been turned into party politics (mainly) by Labour but then there are factions with parties and even factions within factions. Maybe I should have blamed our political class rather than Labour per se? I cannot be… Read more »


Yeah I would say the political class has turned it into party politics but I think it was inevitable, with Scotland voting to leave, the SNP were always going to be opposed, the Lib Dems are the Lib Dems so no explanation needed, and of course Theresa May calling the snap election.. “Let us tomorrow vote for an election, let us put forward our plans for Brexit and our alternative programmes for government and then let the people decide.” “So, tomorrow, let the House of Commons vote for an election, let everybody put forward their proposals for Brexit and their… Read more »

Chris H

@Solesurvivor – You see THAT is how you counter a remark was probably too clever by half. But I couldn’t resist it! The fact that surprised me was (as I understand) May won more popular votes than Blair won in his ’97 landslide and yet lost a Tory majority. Mind Sturgeon lost hers as well the year before but that never gets mentioned. As an ex Tory it grieves me to see how that once clear and determined party has drifted off into nowhere land. No discipline and no purpose other than survival. Europe did for Thatcher, Major and Cameron… Read more »


That’s first past the post for you Chris, in 2015 UKIP got double the popular vote than SNP, nearly half of what Labour got, yet were represented by 2 MP’s, compared to the SNP’s 56 and Labours 252. Yeah I do think it’s a shame tbh, I would prefer T May to be able to get on with her job and fulfil her promise about just about managing families, I actually believe she meant it because the country has had enough of austerity, but how can she do her job with this going on, like you say it’s Europe that’s… Read more »

Chris H

@SoleSurvivor – Just to emphasise your first set of numbers in fact UKIP (under Farage) got more popular votes than the LibDems and SNP combined and they got 65 seats.

But as they say in the ‘States: “It is what it is …”

Barry Hooper

Navantia is owned by the Spanish government what an enormous betrayal of British shipbuilders and defence workers. The blue goverment should be put on trial for the biggest betrayal to the defence of the nation and British workers.

Levi Goldsteinberg

Absolute political suicide. No way this is true.

What’s with the defence fake news recently? We’ve had rumours of HMS PoW being mothballed, Chally 2 numbers cut (despite all the hubbub, it all stemmed from one Times article that was flatly denied by the MoD) and now this


Chally 2 numbers have been cut, slashed.

Levi Goldsteinberg

There’s lies going around about further cuts. All the fuss stems from one article in the Times the MoD denies but that doesn’t stop major media outlets from picking it up and running with it


Rosyth should get this contract, keeps the Scottish happy I supose, imagine the headache of moving coulport with all the nuclear weapons and our nuclear submarines from the Clyde! That’s a real headache.


Love it, under this Government the British have: Handed over millions to terrorists returning from Afghanistan Handed over Millions to terrorists in Kenya Handed over British troops to the courts in Ireland whilst letting IRA terrorists go free Happy to purchase hardware that can be built in the Uk from elsewhere Run down the military so much that it wont be long before Malta will have a much more powerful military Happy to hand over billions to Pakistan which currently has a much more powerful military than we do. Happy to spend millions on false claims of allegations against British… Read more »


European defence procurement a la Type 31 relaunch and Boxer purchase we are signed up to destroy our defence industry


Just voted Gavin and Lee up as they said everything I think: fake news and it wouldn’t stop the clamoring anyway.


Its OK Penny will sort this nonsense out, if it is true of course.

She has a picture of Nelson on her office wall – its her own and brought it in after shunning the official art collection offered.

I am expecting great things from her short tenure as Sec Def, after all, there aren’t any better candidates for PM than her so she could be in No 10 by the end of the year!

Chris H

I noticed she was wearing the Dolphins on her lapel at the Westminster Abbey service for 50 years of the nuclear deterrent today.
She has some class does that lady…

Gavin Gordon

Trying to test HMS Penny’s calibre? Put her on the gunline straight away, perhaps.

Chris H

Not often I agree with anything any SNP person says but on this Paul Sweeney is dead right. As are the Unions. This Government (driven lets be aware by the anti British and pro foreign civil service) made a catastrophic error in putting the FSS ships out to international tender for 2 simple reasons: 1) We are leaving the EU and therefore can tell them to shove their rules and 2) In any case shipbuilding in every country (except the UK apparently) is considered a vital national security industry. We had the perfect opportunity to enact the shipbuilding strategy: *… Read more »


What he said. ⬆️⬆️⬆️.


Paul Sweeney is Labour.

Chris H

@Darren – Fair Cop Guv … meant to add Stewart McDonald. Always happy to be corrected thank you.


The other thing that needs to be taken into consideration is the extra costs that UK firms have imposed on them by policies and these need to be minused off the price. Like energy! when we live in a worls and a digital industry in which every weld seam can be measured modlled and costed, everything can be taken into account now!


The story seems a bit fanciful.


Apart from totally destroying a future new viable UK shipbuilding sector/industry, is this not form of appeasment or/and in a way making our authority and right to Gibraltar look not ligitimate. But after all of this, this stupidest and most undermining of UK industry government (like Blair and the rest too) done something as devastating as this, do we think Spain would change it’s policy towards Gibraltar?. No, it would not!


Wait there, Spain to recieve FSSS to silence Gibraltar claims? So no competition then? All you have to do is threaten and make claims against a soveriegn territory and you get huge shipbuilding contracts (to the detriment of the buying Country who’s yards can quite easily build these ships and invest in the future), that’s how it works is it?


The tories continue to write the longest suicide note in history. It is excrutiating to watch and listen to the ineptitude and the complete lack of any guile, nous or good old fashioned balls in tnis government.. who will replace the hapless and out of her depth May? Boris? Dont make me grin. Anyone who saw the programme on the F.O. can see what a complete cretin the man is. No hidden depth, just a blithering idiot. Any would be statesmen/women in the wings? Take one step forward. 148 C2’s to be upgraded only still with a gun inferior to… Read more »

peter french

IS it April 1st again. If there is any truth in this then we have a Government who are utterly devoid of any backbone or Patriotism . A cringing lot who will crumble against opposition. The Spaniards are laughing at us and we just smile in return
I say , if it is true then as a Conservative since God were lad ill dump then without regret


Has anyone heard of Pallion shipyard Sunderland!? It still exists! Created by Jame Venus the man who created Appledore and Ulsan South Korea Hyundai shipyard. This once the worlds biggest all undercover ship factory is an asset most do not even know about. Whilst it may not be alble to build whole FSSS ships but it could sure start building the relatively simple liquid parrallel midship hull sections (three of). Tow them up the road to Rosyth. Yes people with skills are needed along with investment, but investment comes with guess what…? A number of businesses use the faciltiy like… Read more »

Geoff Roach

As my Meerkat friends would say…” it’s all so simples”. Best product, best price gets the work. Ideally that should be in the U K but if we can’t compete….


I really wish the MOD would be allowed to make decisions based on defensive needs and not politics. The defence budget is tight and the gaps in capability are growing and yet people want ships to be built in the UK to prop up companies and therefore built at extra cost tightening the budget even further. The question should be simple, here’s the budget and the timeline, who can build the best ship within that budget/time. Instead we have this mess where decisions get constantly delayed due to lobbying and due to delays costs escalate and capabilities are cut. Would… Read more »


Then it has to be over 50% cheaper plus the socio impacts and loss to future investment in UK industry to be competitive. If it is over 50% cheaper, Ithen ask who the heck is subsidising them?! Germany italy france and Netherlands build it’s own FSSS ships that are more expensive. But they take other matters into account.


I hope this is not true, but then again with the British Government and heavy industry anything is possible. Does the UK Government not understand that when an order is placed in a UK shipyard a lot of the monies spent comes back to the treasury. People build ships, people get paid, people pay taxes, people that get paid and pay taxes buy things people that buy things pay VAT. Ships get built shipyards needs materials, materials cost money VAT is paid, shipyards that needs materials need to get it from manufacturers, manufacturers needs to employ people to produce goods… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

So is there a conspiracy or political ideology being followed to do this to British industry over many decades?

It is the only possible answer.


Daniele, conspiracy no, political ideology possibly. Heavy industry possibly means trade unions, trade unions from the Conservative part’s point of view means strikes or not getting into power as trade unions vote Labour. I know that is simplistic but it is what it is. Many Conservative governments have either fallen or have been crippled by strikes. There is one more issue that might need to be taking into account and again it is the problem of Parliament. Defence expenditure is at the whim of who ever is in power. If we have tomorrow a Labour government with Corbyn at the… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Agree with long term defence planning. I’d ringcfence it in law just like the aid budget too.

It’s at the mercy of any new government otherwise.


Remember Daniele, manufacturing and engineering should be allowed to wither and die, the only real positive driver in our economy is the financial sector, what possibly could go wrong?

Daniele Mandelli

I know so much of our economy is in services and finance but we should bloody well have both.


Yes. Not only that companies pay taxes pay for energy etc. If the UK gov buy direct from industry material like steel from UK steel makers, it is in their and our interests to do this, plus all UK suppliers, and on and on. Prof Paul Stott of Newcastle University could be right, in which he worries about UK governments not liking this type of sector (because of the past history which is so longh ago now and should not impact on a new generation) and would glady through the baby out with the bath water, again! Not everyone wants… Read more »


Surprise F…ing surprise that a UK design house wins the design contract and other protected UK content supplier win contracts (what ever that means), but they get built abroad. No independent UK industrial strategy being in building ships or other! No real maritime Nation either.


The fact this is an open tender means there is apsolultly no chance of this in any way being true. If there was a sniff of it the other bidders would all foul and the whole process would need to start again with a load of court cases against HMG for lost income and costs.

This sort of corruption does not happen in an open tender in nations that don’t have corruption issues…Fake news at its best.

Daniele Mandelli

Not good if true.

They are needed ASAP to replace the GP T23’s.

The first T26 is still years away.

The T31 / River 2 is needed to free the first line ships ( T45 / T26 ) from constabulary work to concentrate on supporting the carrier and the deterrent.


Not good indeed. Perhaps the good news is that the MOD has accepted that none of the contenders is acceptable. Leander is too small; Meko and Arrowhead are not British and all would be underarmed at the price. The question is what now? Soldier on with Type 23 and/or a mixed fleet of Type 26 and River 2? Maybe subclasses of the UK hulls we do have ; additonal uparmed River 3s with s 57mm and hangar and 2 or 3 more diesel GP T26s. Would that work? Maybe we should get Canada and Australia to quote for building us… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I read now that HMG has accepted that the costs of equipment transferred onto the T31 from T23 will not be part of the 250 million.

Maybe that will help matters.


Sounds like desperate measures. When you are in a hole the first thing to do is to stop digging. Get the Canadians and the Australians for competitive quotes to build another 5 GP Type 26 for the RN ?

Doug Stenning

Sorry, but if I wanted speculation rather than facts I’d get my news from Facebook (or one of the many printed news outlets that spin absolute garbage).