Rishi Sunak commits to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence by 2030

The prime minister said his announcement was helping to put Britain's defence industry on a war footing, as ITV News Europe Editor James Mates and Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen report

Rishi Sunak has promised an extra £75 billion in defence spending over the next six years, as he warned the world is “the most dangerous it has been” since the end of the Cold War.

The prime minister said the UK will spend 2.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) on defence by 2030.

This re-commits to a target set by Boris Johnson in 2022 and firms up Mr Sunak’s own stance on the defence budget.

The prime minister and chancellor Jeremy Hunt had previously only said the 2.5% goal would be met when the economic conditions allow.

But committing to 2030 is unlikely to appease some on the Conservative benches who have been pushing for at least 3% to be spent on defence at a time when Vladimir Putin’s Russia is waging war on a European neighbour.

Mr Sunak set out the plan at a joint appearance with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a military base in Warsaw, Poland.

Under the new spending plan, the UK defence budget will increase immediately and then rise steadily to reach £87 billion at the end the decade.

Mr Sunak said: “In a world that is the most dangerous it has been since the end of the Cold War, we cannot be complacent.

“As our adversaries align, we must do more to defend our country, our interests, and our values.

“That is why today I am announcing the biggest strengthening of our national defence for a generation.

“We will increase defence spending to a new baseline of 2.5% of GDP by 2030 – a plan that delivers an additional £75 billion for defence by the end of the decade and secures our place as by far the largest defence power in Europe.

“Today is a turning point for European security and a landmark moment in the defence of the United Kingdom.

“It is a generational investment in British security and British prosperity, which makes us safer at home and stronger abroad.”

Mr Hunt and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps travelled with Mr Sunak and backed the announcement.

The chancellor said the announcement “sends the clearest possible message to Putin that, as other Nato European countries match this commitment, which they will, he will never be able to outspend countries that believe in freedom and democracy”.

Drawing lessons from the war in Ukraine, the government promised a further £10 billion over the next 10 years to ensure the military does not run out of ammunition and missiles.

This represents nearly a doubling of current UK spending on munitions production and will focus on capabilities including air defence missiles, anti-armour munitions and 155mm artillery shells.

The announcement comes after Mr Sunak unveiled a £500 million military aid package including missiles, armoured vehicles and boats for Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who spoke to the prime minister on Tuesday morning, said “all of this is needed on the battlefield”.

Mr Sunak said Mr Zelenskyy is “in good spirits”, “very positive” about renewed US support and “very grateful” for UK help.

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Mr Sunak also stressed the importance of Europeans investing in their own security and Nato countries reaching their 2% defence spending commitment.

He said the news that the US House of Representatives ended a months-long stalemate by approving a critical 61 billion US dollar (£49 billion) aid package for Ukraine was “very welcome”, but added “that doesn’t take away from the need for Europeans to invest in their security”.

Mr Sunak warned that Russian President Mr Putin “will not stop at the Polish border” if his assault on Ukraine is allowed to succeed.

Mr Zelenskyy welcomed what he said is the “largest defence support package for Ukraine to date” from the UK.

“Storm Shadow and other missiles, hundreds of armoured vehicles and watercraft, ammunition – all of this is needed on the battlefield,” he said.

“I am grateful to the UK and personally to Prime Minister Sunak for such a strong demonstration of support and for the willingness to further develop our defence co-operation, especially with an emphasis on maritime and long-range capabilities.”

The promised equipment includes around 400 vehicles, more than 1,600 strike and air defence missiles, 60 boats and nearly four million rounds of small arms ammunition.

Labour was sceptical of Mr Sunak’s announcement, and said the public would “judge ministers by what they do not what they say”.

John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, said: “As Keir Starmer recently set out, Labour wants to see a fully funded plan to reach 2.5%, but the Tories have shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted on defence and we will examine the detail of their announcement closely.

“The British public will judge ministers by what they do not what they say. Since 2010, the Conservatives have wasted more than £15 billion 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.”

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