Sunak Hints at Cuts to Meet UK Defense Spending Target Amid Warnings

UK PM Sunak hints at potential cuts to meet 2.5% GDP defense spending pledge by 2030, sparking debate over balancing security needs and public spending priorities.

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Hadeel Hashem
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Sunak Hints at Cuts to Meet UK Defense Spending Target Amid Warnings

Sunak Hints at Cuts to Meet UK Defense Spending Target Amid Warnings

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has hinted at potential cuts to meet the UK's pledge to boost defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030, a commitment that will require over £75 billion more in defense spending over the next six years. Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron acknowledged that "public spending trade-offs" will be needed to achieve this goal, which was previously set by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Sunak said the defense spending plan is "fully funded" through a reduction of 72,000 civil service jobs and an uplift in research and development spending. However, he did not exclude the possibility of additional cuts beyond the civil service. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that unprotected areas of public spending will now face cuts of about 4% a year after 2025 to help meet the defense commitment.

The opposition Labour party has criticized the Conservatives' handling of defense spending, citing "wasted" funds and shrinking the army to its smallest size since Napoleon. Labour has also committed to a 2.5% defense spending target when finances allow, and has promised to conduct a strategic defense and security review in its first year in office to understand the resources required to meet the threats facing the UK.

Why this matters: The UK's commitment to significantly increase defense spending amid economic challenges and budget constraints highlights the growing concerns over global security threats. The debate over balancing defense needs with other public spending priorities is likely to shape the country's political and economic landscape in the coming years.

Sunak will use the upcoming NATO summit in Washington, D.C. to lobby allies to match the UK's defense spending commitment, arguing that 2.5% of GDP should be the new benchmark for alliance members. The current NATO target for defense spending is 2%, which only 11 members met in 2023. Sunak stated, "The world is more dangerous than at any point since the Cold War. We can't keep expecting the US to bear the burden."

Key Takeaways

  • UK to boost defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030, requiring £75B+ more
  • Sunak plans cuts to civil service, R&D spending to fund defense commitment
  • Unprotected public spending faces 4% annual cuts after 2025 to meet defense goal
  • Labour criticizes Conservatives' defense spending, pledges own 2.5% target
  • Sunak to lobby NATO allies to match UK's 2.5% defense spending benchmark