Grant Shapps calls for other NATO members to follow UK's lead and boost defence spending to 2.5% of GDP

24 April 2024, 08:39

Grant Shapps has called for other NATO members to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP
Grant Shapps has called for other NATO members to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Kit Heren

Grant Shapps has called for all NATO members to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, after Rishi Sunak announced the UK would lift its military budget to that level on Tuesday.

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The Defence Secretary told LBC's Nick Ferrari that a government's most important role was protecting its country, after Mr Sunak warned of increased threats from hostile states.

Of the 32 NATO members, only 11 meet the current guideline of 2% of GDP for military spending. This has increased from seven in 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Britain's additional military budget, which amounts to around £75 billion over the next six years, is "not about the shape of the military itself", according to Mr Shapps. The numbers of troops in the armed forces will not be affected.

"It is about making sure the armed forces... are as lethal as they can possibly be," he said.

Watch again: Nick Ferrari is joined by Defence Secretary Grant Shapps | 24/04/24

"The budget that we have... is not only the second largest in NATO, it is by far and away... the largest budget in Europe for defence.

"We now want others to follow us on this and get to the 2.5% themselves."

The Defence Secretary insisted that the extra defence spending was properly accounted for, and Treasury officials have "already worked through the detail", without going into detail on what else might be cut to allow for the military funding.

Mr Shapps said some of the savings would come from cutting the size of the civil service to pre-pandemic levels - a loss of 72,000 jobs.

NATO soldiers on exercises in Poland
NATO soldiers on exercises in Poland. Picture: Alamy

He said this makes "a lot of sense" and the money would be used in part to fund the "enormous" increase in defence spending.

Mr Shapps added: "We believe the defence of the realm is the number one task that we face. In a sense unless you defend the realm and the country is safe, everything else drops away.

"We are making a choice - that is true," he added, while pointing out recent National Insurance cuts. The extra defence spending does not have "a direct immediate effect on the things that we do," he added.

Rishi Sunak visits Poland
Rishi Sunak visits Poland. Picture: Getty

It comes after Mr Sunak on Tuesday warned of heightened tensions between states like Russia, Iran, North Korea and China which are on the rise, saying the “international environment that is steadily deteriorating”.

The rogue nations are spending more cash on their own militaries, cyber capabilities, and on drones, No10 warned, which pose a “direct threat” to Brits here in the UK.

Meanwhile Ben Wallace, the former Defence Secretary, welcomed the additional spending and said that the threats to the UK are growing.

Mr Wallace told LBC's Nick Ferrari that the government needs to "step up" to counter the increasing threats to British security.

Ben Wallace speaks to Nick about increased defence spending

Britain is currently spending £64.6billion a year on defence – 2.32 per cent – but that will be boosted gradually over the next six years to £87.1billion a year by 2030/31.

Previously ministers only said they would hike it when the economic conditions allow, butIt will mean billions of pounds extra spending each year – and £75billion more by the end of the decade.

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But buried in the small print of the document they admitted it would take “tough but necessary choices” – and that the “cost of inaction would be far greater”.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets Rishi Sunak in Poland
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets Rishi Sunak in Poland. Picture: Getty

It comes amid warnings from top defence brass and MPs that we need to hike spending now or it will be too late to combat growing threats from around the world.

The PM said we “cannot be complacent” as the world becomes ever more dangerous and hailed a “turning point” in defence for Europe.

Downing Street said that the additional funding will be used to put the UK’s defence industry on a war footing, and to deliver cutting-edge technology.

UK Prime Minister Visits Poland
UK Prime Minister Visits Poland. Picture: Getty

The PM 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.”

The new plan will include another £10billion a year on producing munitions, so the UK can stockpile the next generation equipment.

And it will modernise the armed forces, by reforming defence procurement and creating a new Defence Innovation Agency.

At least 5% of the defence budget will be spent on research and development.

With today’s announcement, UK defence spending will increase immediately and then rise steadily to reach £87 billion at the end the decade – hitting 2.5% of GDP by 2030.

Ministers will promise to back Ukraine too, for “as long as it takes”.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt added: “It speaks to Britain’s global role that, with an improving economy, we are able to make this commitment to peace and security in Europe.

“It also 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.”

He said the extra cash would be fully funded, with no extra borrowing or more debt.

Delivering a speech alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Poland, the PM said we are at a “turning point” and urged other nations to step up too.

The PM announced today that Britain would be spending an extra £500million on aid for Ukraine – with a new package of aid, munitions, vehicles and engineering support.

He warned that Putin “won’t stop at Poland’s borders” as he said there would be a “difficult summer” ahead for the Ukraine conflict with Russia.

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