The defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, is unlikely to receive any increase in defence spending in the coming year in spite of waging a relentless political campaign against the Treasury, according to Whitehall sources.
Williamson is scheduled to meet chancellor Philip Hammond in the next fortnight in a renewed attempt to secure concessions ahead of a Nato summit in Brussels on 11 and 12 July.
But a source familiar with the negotiations said there is no chance of the Treasury, faced with a promised rise in NHS spending and other demands on the budget, conceding any more cash to the Ministry of Defence.
Williamson met Hammond and Theresa May on Tuesday to discuss the results of a year-long defence review scheduled to be announced before the Nato summit. But the meeting broke up without him securing any promises of more cash.
He also met the chief secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, but that too ended without him wringing any more funding.
It came as May declined to confirm at a press conference alongside Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg in London that the UK is still a “top-tier” military power. Top-tier means able to fight a nuclear, cyber and conventional war anywhere in the world. Only the US, China, Russia, France and the UK are usually included in the group.
The Financial Times reported on Thursday that May, at a Downing Street meeting, had asked Williamson to justify the UK being a “tier-one” country. Despite denials from Downing Street, a source familiar with the meeting said on Thursday that May had questioned whether the UK needed all these capabilities.
Her question came against the backdrop of a review aimed at shaking up British defence and security needs to match 21st-century threats, due for completion in the next few weeks.
In a press conference after talks with Stoltenberg, May refused to state explicitly that Britain would remain a tier-one military power, despite being asked to do so, but did say “the reports that…