London: World-famous Gurkha regiment, part of the British Army for almost 200 years, may be among those axed unless the Ministry of Defence's demands for more money to fund the replacement of Trident nuclear missile submarines are answered.
Last night, hopes for extra funding were fading as Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander rejected demands for extra money from Tory Defence Secretary Liam Fox and insisted the GBP 20 billion cost of replacing Trident had to be met fully by the MoD, The Observer reported today.
Quoting an expert, the report said the increasing costs of running the Gurkha's following actress Joanna Lumley's high-profile campaign last year to improve their rights, added to the sense that the "writing is on the wall" for the Brigade of Gurkhas, which has 3,640 members.
Fox has been pushing hard for the Treasury to increase the MoD's budget in some of the toughest negotiations of the spending review aimed at slashing Britain's GBP 155 billion deficit.
The report said despite their fame and public following, the Gurkhas had long been a candidate for cuts.
"Ever since January 01, 1948, when the Brigade of Gurkhas joined the British Army, their future has been up for discussion. They have been here before," the report quoted a defence insider.
A spokesman for the Gurkha Welfare Trust, which cares for ex-Gurkhas and their families, conceded they were vulnerable. He said: "The government has made it clear there are no sacred cows."
The Gurkhas have been an integral part of the Army since 1815, when the British East India Company signed a peace deal allowing it to recruit Nepalese soldiers.
The other regiments at risk are likely to be a tank regiment alongside the possible loss of a Scottish battalion such as the Black Watch or the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
Big-ticket items are also to be re-evaluated including two new 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers, which are to come into service in 2016 and 2018, and the RAF's Eurofighter/Typhoon aircraft.
First Published: Sunday, August 29, 2010, 13:13