Defence budget slashing ‘ends now,’ says PM Johnson as UK announces largest military cash boost since Cold War
Boris Johnson pledged to “end budget-cutting now” as he announced a £16.5 billion ($22 billion) increase in defence spending and the creation of a cyber force and a space command.
The cash injection into Britain’s military works out at about £4 billion a year over the next four years and will create 10,000 jobs annually across the UK, the prime minister said on Thursday.
“The era of cutting our defence budget must end, and it ends now,” Johnson promised.
Defence of the realm is the first duty of government.
“Let’s end the era of retreat and extend British influence as a force for good in the world.”
As part of the spending package the government has pledged to create a new agency for artificial intelligence, a ‘National Cyber Force’ of hackers and a ‘Space Command’, capable of launching the UK’s first rocket in 2022.
Johnson, who is self-isolating after contact with a Covid-positive person, outlined the ambitious plans by saying the nation’s security in 20 years is dependent on decisions taken today.
The international situation is now more perilous and intensively competitive than at any time since the Cold War.
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer welcomed the investment in Britain’s military as top priority, but criticised Johnson for announcing more spending without a strategy.
The annual Ministry of Defence budget is about £40 billion, meaning the newly announced extra cash is an increase of about 10 percent over four years.
The investment plans received early praise from Acting US Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who said they indicated the UK’s commitment to NATO.
The British government’s military investment comes amid backlash, including from within Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party, over its plans to cut the foreign aid budget from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent of gross national income.
The UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended the review of the UK’s foreign aid budget in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The government is committed to supporting international development and helping the world’s poorest people,” he said.
“We are looking at how the foreign aid budget is spent to ensure it serves the UK’s priorities and represents value for money.”
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