PM May dismisses report she questioned UK status as 'tier one' military power

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May greets Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg outside Number 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday a report that she had questioned the United Kingdom’s status as a “tier one” military power was incorrect.

The Financial Times had said May told Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson that he needed to rethink the capabilities needed to be a modern military force and focus more on Britain’s ability to tackle any cyber warfare threats, including from Russia,

When asked about the report at a news briefing with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, May said: “The reports that you have read are not correct.”

But when asked directly whether she wanted Britain to be a tier one military power, May said only that she wanted Britain to be a “leading defence nation.”

Stoltenberg was in London ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels next month.

Asked how he would feel about Britain becoming a nation with fewer military capabilities, he said: “I urge the United Kingdom to maintain its leading role and that’s good for the UK, that’s good for NATO, and we need all the capabilities that the UK provides the alliance.”

The defence ministry said in a statement it was carrying out a review aimed at modernising British forces and that any talk of the outcome before the conclusions were published were “pure speculation”.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Andrew MacAskill; editing by Stephen Addison