Sun, 19 May 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
Press releases

Rishi Sunak Announces Increase In Defence Spending To 2.5% Of GDP By 2030

Rishi Sunak delivered a press conference in Warsaw alongside the chief of NATO (Alamy)

5 min read

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced an increase in defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2030, which he called the "biggest strengthening of our national defence for a generation".

The Government currently spends just over 2 per cent of GDP on defence, previously saying it would only increase spending to 2.5 per cent when fiscal and economic circumstances allow. The increase to 2.5 per cent would make the UK the fifth-highest spender as a proportion of GDP in NATO.

Sunak travelled to Poland on Tuesday alongside Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps to announce the UK will provide an additional £500m to Kyiv, as well as increasing overall defence spending.

He said the increase in defence spending would start today and rise steadily each year over the next six years to 2030.

"We'll invest an additional £75bn in our defence and it will be fully funded with no increase in borrowing or debt," he said.

"So this is not some vague aspiration for the future. We have a clear plan for what we will spend, when we will spend it and how we will pay for it. A plan that makes the United Kingdom by far the largest defence power in Europe, and second largest in NATO."

The announcement also included an increase in defence R&D at a minimum to 5 per cent of the defence budget and invest more in autonomous drones. Sunak also said a new Defence Innovation Agency would be set up so that "decisions about defence innovation will be brought together in a single strategic agency that will be freed from red tape and work with the private sector on emerging new technologies".

Sunak added that the government would ensure defence investment counts towards environmental, social and governance assessments. 

The Prime Minister said that he wanted to reassure the public that "we are not on the brink of war and nor do we seek it", but warned that "we've entered a period in history in which competition between conquered countries has sharpened profoundly an axis of authoritarian states with different values to ours".

He specifically pointed to Russia, Iran, North Korea and China as posing "real risks to the United Kingdom's security and prosperity". 

"The danger they pose is not new, but what is new is that these countries or their proxies are causing more instability more quickly, in more places at once," he said.

"And they're increasingly acting together, making common cause and an attempt to reshape the world order."

The UK had already allocated £2.5bn to Ukraine for this financial year, and the US House of Representatives has also now approved $61bn in new US military aid for Ukraine after multiple delays to the package. 

With the UK’s additional funding coming from Treasury reserves, according to officials, it will be used to deliver ammunition, technology such as drones, and engineering support to the Ukrainian frontline.

En route to Poland, Sunak also announced to reporters that General Gwyn Jenkins, deputy head of the armed forces, will become the UK's next national security adviser. This will be the first time a senior military officer has held the position.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who spoke at the press conference alongside Sunak, said the announcement of an increase in defence spending "confirms the vital role the UK place in our alliance".

He said that while this commitment would set NATO in the "right direction", they now needed to work out how to best put it to use in the defence of Ukraine against Russia.

"This reminds us that security is not regional, security is global, and we must work with our like-minded partners around the world to preserve and protect transatlantic security," he said.

Sunak has been under considerable pressure to announce a defence spending increase, including from the defence secretary himself. A couple of weeks ago, a number of Tory MPs were concerned the Government was sidestepping the issue.

PoliticsHome had previously heard Tory backbenchers have been urging No.10 to consider making security a dominant and recurring theme of the upcoming general election campaign. 

Some Conservative MPs have already welcomed the boost to defence spending, with former Armed Forces Minister James Heappey saying it was “hugely needed”.

However, some experts have expressed scepticism over whether the promise of increased defence spending can be delivered. Chief Executive of the Resolution Foundation, Torsten Bell, said in his view it would be "totally impossible" to carry out post-election plans to cut unprotected government departments day-to-day spending by 13 per cent and for capital spending to shrink, while also raising defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP.

"This is a lot easier to announce than deliver," he said.

"This promise is for 2030 when the MOD doesn't currently have a budget for 2025/26... and announcing it outside of a fiscal event means trade-offs/how it's funding is completely ignored."

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, said Labour wanted to see a fully funded plan to reach 2.5 per cent and that in their view, the Tories had "shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted on defence".

“The British public will judge ministers by what they do not what they say," he said.

"Since 2010, the Conservatives have wasted more than £15bn mismanaging defence procurement, shrunk the Army to its smallest size since Napoleon, missed their recruitment targets every year, and allowed morale to fall to record lows.

“Labour will conduct a strategic defence and security review in the first year in government to get to grips with the threats we face, the state of our Armed Forces, and the resources required.”

Sunak will travel to Berlin next to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday.

PoliticsHome Newsletters

PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Zoe Crowther - MP Admits Fellow Tories Have "Checked Out"

Engineering a Better World

The Engineering a Better World podcast series from The House magazine and the IET is back for series two! New host Jonn Elledge discusses with parliamentarians and industry experts how technology and engineering can provide policy solutions to our changing world.

NEW SERIES - Listen now