Boris Johnson will today announce he is tripling a planned increase of the country’s military budget in what will be the largest defence investment in decades.
The government will spend an extra £16.5bn on the UK’s military over the next four years, which will take the total increase over this time period to about £24.1bn.
A Downing Street statement said the funding meant the armed forces could buy “cutting-edge technology” in areas such as “cyber and space”, while also “addressing weaknesses in our defence arsenal”.
Johnson will also announce the creation of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) agency, a National Cyber Force and a new space force that will aim to launch its first rocket in 2022.
It is estimated that the new spending will create up to 10,000 jobs a year annually.
Johnson said he’s making the announcement mid-pandemic, because “the defence of the realm must come first”.
“The international situation is more perilous and more intensely competitive than at any time since the Cold War and Britain must be true to our history and stand alongside our allies,” he said.
“To achieve this we need to upgrade our capabilities across the board.”
The spending comes as the first announcement from the government’s integrated review of the UK’s foreign, defence, development and security policy.
Its full findings will be submitted early next year.
The extra military spending is large victory for defence secretary Ben Wallace at a time where there has been talk of cuts in other areas such as foreign aid.
The UK has spent more than £200bn on its coronavirus response and the annual budget is expected to be at least £350bn – a 12-fold increase from pre-pandemic expectations.
Professor Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director-general at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) think tank, said the announcement was “a remarkable tribute to the persuasive powers of the Ministry of Defence”.
“The Conservative Manifesto had committed to an annual real increase of only 0.5 per cent, and even this seemed under threat as the economics of the pandemic and Brexit began to kick in,” he said.
“This will go down well in the new US Administration and with the UK’s Nato allies.”