Keir Starmer to increase defence spending and renew UK's nuclear deterrent

Opposition leader says Labour is 'party of national security' as election campaign continues

A British Ajax Ares tank on the training range at Bovington Camp last year. PA
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Opposition leader Keir Starmer will increase defence spending and commit to replacing Britain's nuclear deterrent if elected when the UK heads to the polls on July 4.

The Labour leader is expected to meet armed forces veterans and a group of his party's candidates when he campaigns in the North West of England on Monday.

Mr Starmer will reaffirm his commitment to a “nuclear deterrent triple lock”, and his ambition to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made it clear that he wants to meet the 2.5 per cent goal by 2030, although Labour has so far declined to outline its timetable, saying it would do so when economic conditions allow.

Labour says its nuclear deterrent triple lock involves: a commitment to build four new nuclear submarines in Barrow-in-Furness; maintaining Britain's continuous at-sea deterrent; and delivering all future upgrades needed for the submarines.

The Vanguard-class submarines are due to be replaced by the bigger Dreadnought class in the next decade.

Between £31 billion ($39.48 billion) and £41 billion have been set aside for the wider programme of replacing the Vanguard-class submarines, according to the House of Commons Library.

Mr Starmer has been trying to shift perceptions of Labour's defence stance after the party's leadership under Jeremy Corbyn, who was a long-standing critic of Nato and Trident.

“National security will always come first in the changed Labour Party I lead,” Mr Starmer said in a statement.

“Keeping our country safe is the bedrock of stability that the British people rightly expect from their government.

“My message to them is clear: Labour has changed. No longer the party of protest, Labour is the party of national security.

“The excellent former service personnel that are standing as Labour candidates are a testament to that change.

“In the face of increasing threats to national security, actions will speak louder than words.

“That's why, alongside our unshakeable commitment to Nato, an incoming Labour government will introduce a 'triple lock' commitment on our nuclear deterrent – providing vital protection for the UK and our Nato allies in the years ahead, as well as supporting thousands of high-paying jobs across the UK.”

Even though Labour is far ahead in the polls, officials say they still need to convince thousands of undecided voters to back what Starmer repeatedly calls a "changed party", one which can be trusted on defence, health and tackling immigration

The Conservatives believe they have a stronger defence offering, with a pledge to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP a year by 2030, a target Labour says it wants to match but only when "resources allow".

Updated: June 02, 2024, 10:14 PM