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Ministers urge Sunak’s government to increase defence spending in highly unusual intervention

Two serving ministers have broken cover to urge Rishi Sunak’s government to “lead the way” and increase defence spending to at least 2.5% at a time of growing threats.

In a highly unusual intervention, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a foreign office minister and former defence minister, and Tom Tugendhat, the security minister and an experienced soldier, published an article online that does not appear to have been sanctioned by Downing Street.

“It’s clear to us that the UK needs to lead the way in increasing our own domestic defence and security spending commitments to 2.5% and beyond,” they wrote in a piece posted on Ms Trevelyan’s LinkedIn page on Friday evening.

“Former defence secretary Ben Wallace and prime minister Boris Johnson made inroads into growing our defence budgets, which had been shrinking in real terms for years. But that only filled the hole. Now we need growth.”

The alarm call by two serving ministers with deep expertise in defence and security comes amid growing disquiet among Conservative MPs and military insiders at a failure by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to announce new funding for the armed forces in his spring budget, even though the defence secretary has warned the UK is in a “pre-war world”.

Instead, Mr Hunt just reiterated a vague pledge to increase defence spending to 2.5% of national income – from just over 2% at present – “as soon as economic conditions allow”.

Underlining their focus, Ms Trevelyan and Mr Tugendhat urged the government to strengthen the UK’s nuclear deterrent, regrow the Royal Navy, invest in more weapons and ammunition and accelerate plans to build a new generation of fighter jets for the air force.

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They also stressed the need to invest in the UK’s defence industrial base.

British Army soldiers crawl and fight through smoke and flares as they attack and move forward supported by armour during a Combined Arms Manouevre Demonstration on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October, 21, 2015. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Image: British Army soldier training on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. Pic: PA

“None of this is wasted cash. It’s investment in our own economy. And it protects our future economic security,” the ministers said.

“The sad truth is that the world is no longer benign. Protecting ourselves requires investment. And effective investment means that our industrial complex must grow and strengthen at much greater pace than at present.

“We cannot turn on the complex platforms and weapons which ensure military advantage overnight. We must start that growth now, invest at pace to support our allies and stay ahead of our adversaries.”

They pointed to how China has just announced a 7.2% rise in its defence budget to $230bn (£179bn) – more than twice what it was a decade ago.

Russia, they said, “is committed to spending 40% of its expenditure on defence and security this year. Vast sums by any standard to fight its illegal war in Ukraine”.

By contrast, UK defence spending has risen 28% from £43bn to £55bn over the last 10 years, they said.

The ministers did not specifically refer to this year’s budget, but military experts have expressed dismay that the level of funding set out in official tables on Wednesday appeared to track a decline of £2.5bn in defence spending in the financial year to March 2025 compared with the previous 12 months.

The Ministry of Defence said this was because the data did not include new money for the military that was pledged last autumn, as well as assistance to Ukraine.

British soldiers taking part in a NATO allied troops training exercise in North Macedonia. File pic: Reuters
Image: British soldiers taking part in a NATO allied troops training exercise in North Macedonia. Pic: Reuters

Ms Trevelyan, who is charged with the Indo-Pacific region in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, underlined the importance of Europe stepping up to secure its borders as the United States increasingly focuses on the challenge posed by China.

Mr Tugendhat underlined the threats he sees at home “funded by illicit drug money, weapons trafficking and the abuses of modern slavery and people trafficking”.

He warned: “Those who wish our country, and our way of life, harm are more active than ever.”

Sky News Source