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Rishi Sunak says defence spending uplift is ‘fully funded’ following Labour criticism | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has insisted his uplift in defence spending is “fully funded” after Labour branded the announcement a pre-election “gimmick”.

The prime minister was asked by journalists whether he was not “entirely squaring with people” over how the increase in defence spending by 2030 will be funded – and whether it would involve “pain” for taxpayers.

But Mr Sunak, appearing at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said that was not a “fair characterisation” and that his pledge was “fully funded”.

Mr Sunak confirmed yesterday that the UK’s defence spending would increase to 2.5% of GDP by 2030 to meet the “growing threats” posed by the likes of Russia, China and Iran.

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The government has said the commitment amounted to an additional £75bn in funding over the next six years.

Labour has outlined a desire to match the pledge but some shadow ministers have struck a more cautious tone than others.

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Speaking today in Berlin, the prime minister said Chancellor Jeremy Hunt had conducted a “detailed exercise” that “gives us the confidence that we can release the savings needed”.

“We are making a choice to prioritise defence with both of those decisions and I believe that’s the right thing to do,” he said.

“Because whether we like it or not, the world is more dangerous now than at any moment since the Cold War and it falls on leaders – whether that’s Olaf, whether that’s me – to do what’s necessary to keep our continent safe and stand up for our values.”

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Is 2.5% of GDP enough?

Mr Sunak confirmed the reduction in civil service headcount to pre-pandemic levels would partly fund the spending uplift.

The move, which would see around 70,000 job cuts, has been criticised by the PCS union, which accused the government of using civil servants as a “scapegoat”.

“It’s not right for our members to pay for a rise in defence spending with their jobs, so we’ll fight these proposals tooth and nail, just as we fought them under Boris Johnson,” it said, adding: “Cuts have consequences.”

But Mr Sunak defended the plan, saying that since 2019 “we’ve seen a very significant rise that isn’t sustainable or needed”.

While the prime minister spoke at the press conference, his defence secretary informed MPs of the spending change in the Commons.

Earlier, Grant Shapps told Sky News NATO’s defence spending target should rise to 2.5% of GDP, arguing it would make a “real difference” and inject £135bn a year into the alliance’s budget.

Asked whether he agreed that the target should rise, Mr Sunak declined to answer – but he did say the UK needed to adjust to a “new paradigm”.

“It’s clear that the world that we’re living in is increasingly dangerous…. And I think it’s right that in light of that we recognise that we need to do more,” he said.

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Labour to ‘match’ PM’s defence pledge

Earlier today Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow attorney general, told Sky News her party wanted to “move towards” the government’s 2.5% spending pledge – but it would not commit to the 2030 target “unless there’s a plan that makes sense”.

“When circumstances allow… we want to move towards 2.5%,” she told Kay Burley.

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But she added: “You wouldn’t expect me to come on and say that we could spend £75bn by 2030 without having a plan as to where we were going to get the money from.”

And she said the government’s document on defence spending did not contain a “single word about how they were going to pay for it”, calling it a “gimmick”.

Her comments appear to row back on claims made by Steve Reed, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, who told Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge yesterday that his party was aiming to match the current government’s figure by the end of the decade.

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