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Army conscription: Can you leave UK armed forces – the tough rules on when you can quit | UK | News


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A British Army chief recently warned about the possibility of conscripting UK citizens in the event of World War Three, triggered by the prospect of Russia invading a NATO country.

General Sir Patrick Sanders cautioned that solely augmenting reserve forces “would not suffice.” He underscored the threat posed by Russia and drew attention to measures adopted by other European nations to mobilise their populations for a “war footing.”

In a speech on Wednesday, Sir Patrick said: “Ukraine brutally illustrates that regular armies start wars; citizen armies win them. We need an Army designed to expand rapidly to enable the first echelon, resource the second echelon, and train and equip the citizen army that must follow.

“Within the next three years, it must be credible to talk of a British Army of 120,000, folding in our reserve and strategic reserve. But this is not enough.”

However, Downing Street has rejected the claims. A spokesperson for Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, stated that the Prime Minister does not align with Gen Sir Patrick Sanders’ remarks made during a Wednesday speech.

The spokesperson had to affirm that there would be no reinstatement of national service, which had been abolished in 1960. The No. 10 spokesperson labelled discussions of “hypothetical scenarios” concerning potential future wars as “unhelpful,” further highlighting a growing divide between the Conservative Government and the military, especially given the current reduction in army size, making it the smallest in more than 300 years.

As the discussion gains momentum, Express.co.uk unfolds the tough rules on whether you can leave the Armed Forces and what the exact guidelines are. The report on the UK Parliamentary website explained the terms of service in the UK Armed Forces.

The minimum duration of service varies across the branches of the Armed Forces. For individuals in the Army aged 18 and over, the requirement is a four-year commitment, while those under 18 are obligated to serve until their 22nd birthday.

In the Navy, the minimum service length is three-and-a-half years after the completion of training or four years, depending on which period is longer. Similarly, in the Air Force, individuals are required to serve for three years after completing training or four years, whichever duration proves to be longer.

In 1999, the Army extended its minimum service requirement from three to four years. Those who enlist in the Army under the age of 18 are obligated to serve up to two years longer than those joining after 18, committing to a potential six years of service while still a minor.

Upon reaching the end of their minimum service duration, personnel in the Army or Navy must provide a year’s notice, while those in the Air Force must give 18 months’ notice.

Recruits may be required to serve beyond the standard period if they undergo additional education or training beyond their initial training, and this extension may surpass the length of the course.

Upon leaving full-time service, personnel transition into the reserves, typically lasting for six years. The Army retains the right to call up reservists for up to 16 days annually. All three forces may call up reserves for extended periods in emergencies or when the Defence Secretary deems a national need.

Recruits have the option of a discharge as of right (DAOR) during specific periods in their initial tenure within the armed forces, enabling them to leave by providing a fourteen-day notice. The eligibility for exercising DAOR is contingent on the branch of service and age group, with distinct criteria for each:

  • For Army personnel aged 18 and over, DAOR can be invoked after 28 days of service but before completing three months of service.
  • Army recruits under the age of 18 are eligible for DAOR after 28 days of service but before completing six months of service.
  • In both the Navy and Air Force, individuals can exercise DAOR after 28 days of service but before reaching the six-month service mark.

Individuals serving in the Armed Forces experience significant limitations on political freedoms that are often taken for granted by the general population.

They are prohibited from joining trade unions or political organisations, speaking to the media or in public without prior permission, and running for elected office. Minor acts of personal expression can lead to criminalisation and even imprisonment for Armed Forces members.

Notably, the political constraints imposed on UK personnel are more stringent compared to those governing the Armed Forces in the United States and many European Union member countries.

The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers has advocated for the rights of Armed Forces members, recommending that they should have the freedom of expression, the freedom of peaceful assembly and association with others (in compliance with Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, respectively), and the right to stand for election to political office.

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