Sunak sets 2.5% defence spending target at Integrated Review Refresh launch

Prime Minister to spell out how the UK will deal with challenges posed by Russia and China

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. AFP
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces how the UK will tackle new threats from Russia and China, protect the economy and compete at the cutting edge of technology to launch the Integrated Review Refresh in the US on Monday.

Mr Sunak will confirm plans to boost spending by £5 billion ($6 billion) in defence over the next two years, to help replenish and bolster ammunition stocks, modernise the UK’s nuclear enterprise and fund the next phase of the Aukus submarine programme.

It follows a £24 billion, four-year rise in defence spending in 2020, in the largest sustained increase since the Cold War.

Mr Sunak will also set out an ambition to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP in the longer term, with a review of defence spending after 2025 to take place after the Nato Summit in Lithuania this summer. He spoke to Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday to brief the Nato Secretary General on the plan and said the UK boost would maintain the UK as a cornerstone of the alliance.

"The Prime Minister also reaffirmed the UK's intention to remain a leading contributor to Nato, recognising the importance of continuing to invest in collective Euro-Atlantic security," a spokesman said. "Secretary-General Stoltenberg welcomed the valuable role of the United Kingdom as a staunch Nato ally.

“By investing in our armed forces for the long-term, we will be ready for the challenges of today and of the future.”

The Integrated Review Refresh was commissioned to respond to what are considered to be emerging threats, from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine to China’s economic coercion and increased competition between states.

Lord Dannatt, the former top British general, said the £5 billion was welcome but not enough to ensure the UK was a credible player. "The Government by coming up with £5billion has met a third of what most analysts believe we need to be spending on our defence to be credible both to play our part along with the Americans and the Australians," he said on Monday. "That is a big deal for the Prime Minister at the present moment with regard to the Indo-Pacific but also to play our full part in European security and that is the area I am still most concerned about."

The original Integrated Review identified an Indo-Pacific priority for the UK but the far-reaching consequences of the UK war has triggered a refresh of the framework.

The report identifies priorities to tackle those head-on.

Rishi Sunak through the years - in pictures

The first is dealing with the fundamental risk posed to European security by Russia, and denying Moscow any benefit from its invasion of Ukraine.

“As the world becomes more volatile and competition between states becomes more intense, the UK must be ready to stand our ground,” Mr Sunak said.

“We have seen all too clearly in the last year how global crises impact us at home, with Russia’s appalling invasion of Ukraine driving up energy and food prices.

“We will fortify our national defences, from economic security to technology supply chains and intelligence expertise, to ensure we are never again vulnerable to the actions of a hostile power."

The Integrated Review Refresh also sets out how the UK government will adapt its approach on China to deal with the challenge presented by the country's military, financial and diplomatic activity.

It contains new measures to strengthen the UK’s economic security, technology capabilities and international development in the face of that challenge.

Mr Sunak has set the direction across government for a consistent, coherent and robust approach to China, rooted in the national interest and aligned with its allies.

Updated: March 13, 2023, 10:31 AM