24 Nov 2020

The UK has made the largest defence budget rise since the Cold War

A major announcement about defence spending has been made by the British government.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has approved the country’s largest increase in its defence budget since the end of the Cold War, with £16.5 billion ($21.9 billion) in additional funding made available for spending across shipbuilding, space, cyber, research, development and technology over the next four years.

The move was bold but unsurprising as the Conservative Party manifesto at the 2019 General Election pledged to modernise and invest in training and equipping the Armed Forces during their time in government.

 

UK defence spending is about to grow

The defence sector forms a crucial part of the UK Government’s industrial and economic strategies and plays an important role in its ambitions to drive British innovation on the international stage. It also plays a key role in economies across the globe. Within the UK, defence makes a huge contribution across all regions of the UK whether as a major employer, a large investor, or a hub for local communities.

The UK already spends 2% of its annual GDP on defence, the recommended minimum for NATO membership.

In this latest announcement Mr Johnson said:

“I have decided that the era of cutting our defence budget must end – and it ends now.

I am increasing defence spending by £24.1 billion over the next four years, that’s £16.5 billion more than our manifesto commitment – raising it as a share of GDP to at least 2.2 per cent, exceeding our NATO pledge, and investing £190 billion over the next four years, more than any other European country and more than any other NATO ally, except the United States.”

Mr Johnson looked at the bigger picture during his speech, noting that this investment will achieve returns that will go far beyond the country’s Armed Forces and expressing the hope that the sector will create 10,000 jobs every year for the next four years.

He noted during his speech that “the defence of the realm is above party politics” and hopes that his defence above-all approach will safeguard hundreds of thousands of jobs in the defence industry, protect livelihoods across the UK and keep the British people safe.

 

Extra defence spending for British shipbuilding

The Prime Minister also revealed plans to invest heavily in the Royal Navy and with it the UK shipbuilding sector during his statement to the House of Commons on the Integrated Review. Spend will be spread across the country including Glasgow and Rosyth, Belfast, Appledore and Birkenhead.

Mr Johnson said:

“We shall use our extra defence spending to restore Britain’s position as the foremost naval power in Europe, taking forward our plans for eight Type 26 and five Type 31 frigates, and support ships to supply our carriers.

We are going to develop the next generation of warships, including multi-role research vessels and Type 32 frigates. And this will spur a renaissance of British shipbuilding across the UK.”

 

A boost for cyber

Notably, cyber security was also mentioned in the Prime Minister’s speech. Mr Johnson said:

“I can announce that we have established a National Cyber Force, combining our intelligence agencies and service personnel, which is already operating in cyberspace against terrorism, organised crime and hostile state activity.”

The long-awaited National Cyber Force will also have the capacity to conduct offensive operations as cyberspace increasingly becomes another dimension in defence and warfare.

The announcement comes after the National Cyber Security Centre said that cyber threats have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cyber security organisation said in its fourth Annual Review that:

“It is vital that cyber security remains a priority. It will help us to stay ahead of changing technologies, seize the opportunities for the UK as an independent country outside the European Union, and harness cyber’s full potential to help drive economic recovery.”

 

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