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He said: “The problem comes – and we saw this in 2010 when the defence budget was reduced by seven per cent – that the Government, perhaps not unreasonably, decided to prioritise the big equipment programmes over manpower. The 65,000-ton carrier, capable of carrying up to 40 aircrafts,is due to be ready for its first deployment in 2021, 11 years after the defence review which axed Britain’s old carriers and their Harrier jets.In what will be seen as a veiled attack on HMS Elizabeth, General Lord Dannatt, who was Chief of the General Staff between 2006 and 2009, and prior to that Commander in Chief Land Command, said that problems arise when the Government prioritise “big equipment programmes” over manpower. The army is in danger of being reduced to a mere “gendarmerie”, a former army chief has warned, as he says that the emphasis spending on “big ticket machinery” has led to a squeeze on manpower. General Lord Richard Dannatt, a former Chief of the General Staff, said that “any thought of Britain being taken seriously in the world after Brexit would disappear” if forces are cut any further.His comments come as HMS Elizabeth – the largest and most powerful warship ever built for the Royal Navy – prepares to begin sea trials this summer before it completes its first voyage to its home in Portsmouth, Hampshire, in autumn. Speaking at Chalke Valley History Festival, he said that further cuts to the armed forces would mean that “the Americans would give up on us as a useful ally”, and the army would to be comparable to an armed unit within a civilian police force. HMS Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier The Americans would give up on us as a useful ally. And frankly, any thought of Britain being taken seriously in the world after Brexit would disappearGeneral Lord Richard Dannatt “If that exercise was to be repeated and the priority was to go to big ticket equipment like aircraft carriers and fast jets, the squeeze would once again come on manpower.” General Lord Dannatt, who was speaking about his new book Boots on the Ground: Britain and her army since 1945, said: “The professional view and the widespread view is that an army by design, below the strength of what we currently have, would frankly reduce the army to nothing more than a gendarmerie. “The Americans would give up on us as a useful ally. And frankly, any thought of Britain being taken seriously in the world after Brexit would disappear”.Asked whether he believed rumours that the army could be cut further, to 66,0000, he said: “I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen…Our military capability is really important combined with our soft power ability to have influence over the world. If it was to become a serious debating point of reducing to 65 or 66,000, I think we would need to resist that.” British army soldiers in IraqCredit:ATEF HASSAN “Where is most of the man power in the armed forced? It’s in the army. And that was what led to the army being reduced from 102,000 to 82,000. And now it’s been reduced to 79,000 at the present time. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.