Ex-military chiefs urge political parties to commit to 2.5% defence spending amid ‘gravest threats since Cold War’ | UK News

A group of former defence and military chiefs and senior MPs has urged all political parties to commit in their election manifestos to increasing defence spending to at least 2.5% of GDP, rising to 3% by the end of the decade.

They warned that without such investment “British interests could suffer defeat”, saying the UK faces its “gravest threats since the Cold War”, including from Russia, China and Iran.

“We therefore urge all political parties to commit in their manifestos this year to invest in real terms at least 2.5% of GDP on defence in each year of the next Parliament with a longer-term commitment to reach 3% by 2030,” the group said in what was described as “The Defence Pledge”, published on Tuesday by the Council on Geostrategy, a think tank.

Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 being prepared to take off.
Image:
Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 being prepared to take off.

“We also call on political candidates, whether standing or prospective., to pledge their support. Defending our way of life demands nothing less.”

Rishi Sunak’s government has promised to lift defence spending to 2.5% of national income from just over 2% “as soon as economic conditions allow” – but this lack of clear timing has caused howls of protest from within his own party.

Labour has yet to specify a target but John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, said the party “will always spend what is required to defend the country”. He has also reminded voters that defence spending was last at 2.5% when Labour left office in 2010.

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The Liberal Democrats have similarly not committed to a spending target for defence but a policy published last September vowed to cancel the “government’s ill-advised cut to the army”. Such a move would need to be funded.

Among the signatories of the cross-party defence pledge were Michael Fallon, a former Conservative defence secretary, who helped compile the list, Lord Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup, a former head of the military, James Heappey, a Tory armed forces minister until last week, Graham Stringer, a Labour MP and member of the foreign affairs committee, and Lord Teverson, a Liberal Democrat Peer.

The group raised concerns about the diminished size of the army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force after decades of cuts.

“Countries which wish us harm are growing stronger and more dangerous,” they wrote.

“To deter them and properly protect our interests, we need stronger armed forces, particularly a larger navy, better air defences, and enhanced cyber and space power.”

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