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Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond told Prime Minister Theresa May that Britain can make do with only 50,000 soldiers at a meeting about defence cuts, it has been claimed.

‘Remainer Phil’ insisted that the Armed Forces could make the cut from its current standing strength of 78,000 soldiers because this greatly reduced number would be sufficient for the Army to form a division to fight in a war.

The Chancellor made the assertion in a heated exchange with former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon at 10 Downing Street recently, according to The Sun.

The figure floated by Hammond would render Britain’s Army less than half the size of France’s, and smaller than those of Italy, Spain, and even Germany, notes the newspaper.

Senior defence figures said on Monday that with a drop so large in its standing strength, the Armed Forces could only sustain a war effort for a period of around six months.

Former Army officer Johnny Mercer, now a Conservative MP, reacted angrily to the news, remarking that the chancellor must be “deluded” to believe the Armed Forces could cope with such a large reduction in troop numbers.

“We couldn’t even fulfil our NATO commitments with an Army to 50,000, let alone mount a sustained defence of our nation or its dependent territories,” he said.

“The Chancellor also appears to have forgotten that reducing the number of our troops by any number would completely breach our election manifesto promise to maintain force levels made only in June.”