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UK ‘must’ increase defence spending ‘now’, minister warns

Tom Tugendhat, the security minister, has told Sky News he wants to see defence spending reach 2.5% of GDP “now – as soon as possible”.

This departs from the stated government position – repeated at the budget last week – that spending will reach the 2.5% target “as soon as economic conditions allow”.

Mr Tugendhat – a former soldier – last week urged the prime minister to “lead the way” on increasing defence spending.

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He made the intervention in a post on LinkedIn alongside Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

In the social media post last week, Mr Tugendhat called on the UK to increase its spending on defence to “2.5% and beyond”.

Asked today if he wanted to see Rishi Sunak do more, Mr Tugendhat said: “Well, I want to achieve 2.5% now – as soon as possible.

“That is exactly what we need to achieve.

“You know, the first step is to get to 2.5% and then we’ll have to adjust as the challenges we face evolve.”

There was no additional money for the armed forces in the budget last week. Currently, spending on defence is at around 2.2% of GDP.

Tom Tugendhat
Image: Mr Tugendhat said he wanted to see spending increased as soon as possible

Speaking at the budget last week, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “Our armed forces remain the most professional and best-funded in Europe with defence spending already more than 2% of GDP.

“We are providing more military support to Ukraine than nearly any other country and our spending will rise to 2.5% as soon as economic conditions allow.”

Mr Tugendhat said that Mr Hunt “set out a very strong budget last week about growth and he’s absolutely right”.

He added that it’s “clear” the UK “must increase defence spending”.

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The security minister listed the “challenges of Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East”, the “threat that Russia poses to Ukraine” and also the “rise in autocratic states” as the reasons for needing to increase defence spending.

Mr Tugendhat also said that Mr Sunak – who was then the chancellor – should be thanked as much as Boris Johnson and former defence secretary Ben Wallace for the growing defence budgets in recent years, which had been at 2%.

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In the LinkedIn post last week, Mr Tugendhat and Ms Trevelyan said: “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.”

Mr Tugendhat denied the article was implying Mr Sunak had to be dragged “kicking and screaming” into agreeing to the previous boosts.

Sky News Source