Sunak vows to hit 2.5% defence spend target by 2030

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By Paul Seddon
Politics reporter

Rishi Sunak has promised billions more for defence in the coming years, saying the world is the most dangerous it has been since the Cold War.

The prime minister said UK military spending would rise to 2.5% of national income by 2030, in a move that hardens a previous spending pledge.

Ministers had previously promised to hit the target only when economic conditions allowed.

The new target follows pressure from Conservative MPs and ministers.

Downing Street said the pledge would see £75bn more for the military over the next six years, including an additional £10bn for munitions production.

Before today’s announcement, Labour said it would raise defence spending to 2.5% of GDP “as soon as resources allow” if it wins the general election, expected later this year.

Making the announcement during a visit to Poland, Mr Sunak said the UK was facing the most dangerous international environment since the days of the Cold War between the West and former Soviet Union.

He said the extra spending would put the UK’s defence industry “on a war footing,” although he stressed the UK was “not on the brink of war”.

However, he argued the investment was required because authoritarian states such as Russia and China were showing a “new assertiveness” and were increasingly working together.

The prime minister said spending would rise “steadily in each and every year” before 2030.

He also argued the 2.5% spending ambition could set a “new benchmark” for the 32-member Nato transatlantic military alliance.

Ukraine funding

The UK spent 2.07% of GDP on defence last year, according to the latest Nato data.

The government says it plans to spend 2.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) on defence this year – a figure that includes resources given to Ukraine.

Mr Sunak confirmed earlier the UK will provide an additional £500m for Ukraine this year, on top of £2.5bn already allocated.

He added that the UK could continue to provide “at least the current level of military support to Ukraine for every year it is needed”.

Tory pressure

The announcement comes after increasing Tory pressure on defence following the Budget in March.

Two ministers, Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Tom Tugendhat, publicly urged him to increase spending last month.

Downing Street said its 2.5.% commitment was “fully-funded” – but some experts have previously expressed scepticism over long-term targets.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank, said the previous, vaguer promise to raise spending to 2.5% of GDP was “not worth the paper it’s written on unless accompanied by some sense of how it will be afforded”.

Last month, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned the government currently lacked a “credible plan” to fund the MoD.

Last year the National Audit Office (NAO) said the Ministry of Defence was facing a £16.9bn black hole in its finances – despite an injection of £46.3bn over the next 10 years.

Mr Sunak refused to rule out calling a general election in July when questioned earlier by reporters, repeating his previous comment that it would be “in the second half” of the year.

3 hours ago8 March


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