Britain set to stay as biggest spender on its military in Europe

Jasper Jolly
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The UK has committed to spending two per cent of its GDP on the military (Source: Getty)

The UK is set to continue spending more than any other nation in Europe on defence this year, as nations across the continent build up their militaries in response to a perceived increase in threats.

Britain will spend $48.21bn (£37.33bn) on its military this year, up from $47.96bn in 2016, according to defence analysts Jane’s, part of the IHS Markit group.

The UK’s investment in defence is set to increase by an annual average of 2.1 per cent in dollar terms over the next four years, the report shows.

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Meanwhile spending across Europe will grow to $245bn by 2021, a 1.6 per cent annual growth rate.

The top five European defence budgets

Western Europe 2016 ($bn) 2017($bn)
United Kingdom 47.96 48.21
France 43.84 44.1
Germany 35.38 37.53
Italy 23.07 23.22
Spain 10.89 11.04

The UK is set to continue as the biggest spender (Source: IHS Markit)

Defence spending slumped in Europe in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, as governments looked to redirect spending to non-military budgets.

That slump in spending contributed to multiple Nato member states failing to hit the target of two per cent of GDP on defence. Former chancellor George Osborne committed the UK to the target in 2015 for the next five years, although a respected think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, claimed the UK missed that target last year.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticised nations who do not meet the target, although he has rowed back on his former view that Nato was “obsolete”.

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European Nato budgets averaged 1.3 per cent of GBP in 2014, down from 1.6 per cent in 2005.

However, with a perceived increase in threats from terrorism at home as well as ongoing wars in the Middle East, support for increased spending is increasing, according to Jane’s.

Fenella McGerty, a principal analyst at Jane’s, said: “While countries are still dealing with ongoing budgetary constraints and economic uncertainty, elevated threat levels mean that there’s arguably more political support for increasing defence spending at the moment than there has been in the last 10 years.”

The current build-up in European spending has been mainly driven by Eastern European nations, including Poland, and Turkey, which is looking to upgrade its forces, the second largest in Nato after the USA.

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