Rishi Sunak pledges £5billion for defense as Britain faces a ‘volatile’ world
Rishi Sunak insisted British forces had the resources they needed for a “more unstable world” in the face of growing challenges from China and Russia.
The PM pledged an extra £5bn for the military over two years but fell short of Tory calls to commit to a target of spending 3% of Britain’s gross domestic product (GDP) on defence.
Significant sums of the promised new money will gobble up replenishing stockpiles of ammunition handed over to Ukraine and work on the Aukus project to develop nuclear submarines for Australia.
This short-term funding is only about half of what Defense Secretary Ben Wallace had reportedly called for as military budgets are squeezed by the fallout from Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and high inflation, though officials said he was “pleased” with the Agreement.
As the government unveils the 2023 Integrated Review (IR23) update on Monday, Mr. Sunak is visiting San Diego, California for talks with Aukus ally US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Speaking on the USS Midway museum ship in port in California, Mr. Sunak said: “It is clear that the world has become more volatile, the threats to our security have increased.
“And that’s why, over the next two years, we’re investing a further £5 billion in our world’s best armed forces and increasing our defense spending to 2.5% of GDP so we can continue to lead the world when it comes to defense and keeping our country safe.”
The promised funding sees an additional £1.98bn for defense this year and £2.97bn next year.
About £3bn will be invested in nuclear defense companies, including support for the Aukus project, while £1.9bn will replenish and strengthen ammunition stockpiles.
Mr Sunak told reporters that the additional funds would boost spending from 2% of GDP in 2020 to 2.25% in 2025.
“At that point, we will chart the course for the next phase,” he said, aiming to hit 2.5%.
The defense secretary has previously called for a commitment to spending 3% of GDP, something ex-Prime Minister Liz Truss promised during her short-lived tenure through the end of the decade.
The UK was already on track to reach 2.5% by the end of the decade according to plans set while Boris Johnson was 10th.
Labor accused the Tories of failing to secure Britain’s national defenses for the future.
Shadow Defense Secretary John Healey said: “While 25 other NATO nations have already restarted their defense plans and spending since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Conservatives are still hesitant about making big decisions.”
The IR23 document, which will be formally unveiled with a Commons statement on Monday, updates the 2021 integrated review following the war in Ukraine and pressure from Tory MPs to take a harder line on China.
Mr. Sunak acknowledged that the Chinese Communist Party’s military, financial and diplomatic activities presented an “epochal challenge”.
The prime minister, who called China the UK’s greatest long-term threat during his bid for leadership last year, said: “It is a regime that is becoming increasingly authoritarian at home and more assertive abroad, with a desire to disrupt the world order to remodel. ”
From Monday, a new national security agency within MI5 will provide expert advice to British companies and other organizations on how to counter foreign spies.
Funding for the government-wide China Skills Program will be doubled, boosting Mandarin language training and diplomatic skills.
A new curriculum for the National Security College will improve expertise across government, while a £1billion Integrated Security Fund will replace an existing scheme to focus on priorities in the Integrated Review.
The UK’s critical minerals strategy is updated to ensure access to vital resources, while the BBC World Service gets an extra £20m to run 47 language services to combat disinformation from hostile states.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/joe-biden-anthony-albanese-gdp-rishi-sunak-ben-wallace-b2299401.html Rishi Sunak pledges £5billion for defense as Britain faces a ‘volatile’ world