CUTTING the UK’s defence budget would be “irresponsible”, Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood has said, after reports that the coronavirus crisis could lead to a drop in spending.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace is thought to be concerned that his budget could fall because of the economic downturn.

The budget is set at a minimum of two per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), a measure designed to protect defence spending. But with output dropping and the economy facing recession, the formula means the budget could shrink.

Mr Ellwood, who chairs the House of Commons defence committee, said he would raise the issue with the prime minister. He told the Sunday Times: “This is not he time to roll back on defence.”

He warned that Britain’s adversaries were rearming.

Writing on Twitter, he added: “The Covid-19 world will be more dangerous than any time since the Cold War. It would be irresponsible to reduce or freeze our defence spending.”

Mr Ellwood has previously warned that some countries are “taking advantage of the fog of confusion” caused by the coronavirus.

He said Russia and china were among the nations “exploiting this global distraction to further their own geopolitical agendas”.

Mr Ellwood is an army reservist and a former captain in the Royal Green Jackets and was a defence minister from 2017-19 before chairing the influential defence select committee.