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UK to press on with defence budget hike despite affordability concerns

26th September 2022 - 12:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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UK defence secretary Ben Wallace has signalled more investment in ISR capabilities for the UK armed forces (pictured is an RAF RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft). (Photo: UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

The UK government appears determined to double defence spending by 2030, but it cannot simply wish away the sizeable economic obstacles in the way.

The UK government still intends to more than double the annual defence budget to £100 billion by 2030, defence secretary Ben Wallace said in a recent newspaper interview.

In an interview for the Sunday Telegraph, published on 25 September, Wallace confirmed that Prime Minister Liz Truss will implement a leadership campaign pledge to raise defence spending from 2.1% of GDP today to 3% by 2030 — higher than the aspirational 2.5% from her predecessor Boris Johnson.

Details were scarce on what exactly the extra money will be spent on, but Wallace told the Sunday Telegraph that it is ‘highly likely we will grow the Army but it might not be the places that your armchair generals want you to, because what we desperately need is to, for example, invest in our ISR capability’.

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This may mean that the planned reduction in British Army headcount to 72,500 will not be reversed even with a dramatic increase in the defence budget.

Implementing a 3% GDP spending pledge is likely to be complicated by broader economic factors, with the UK economy in recession and the value of the pound plummeting (making imported specialist defence materials more expensive) after Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng failed the convince the markets with his mini-budget announcement on 23 September.

Even before then, analysis from RUSI deputy director general Malcolm Chalmers, published on 2 September, suggested that a 3% GDP target is unrealistic.

The UK government would have to increase the defence budget by ‘60% in real terms’, Chalmers noted, adding that this equates to about £157 billion in additional defence spending over the next eight years.

This dwarfs the commitment in 2020 by Johnson to add £16.5 billion to the UK defence budget over a four-year period.

The Shephard News Team

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