Britain’s defence and foreign aid budgets are set to miss out on an increase in the Spring budget, despite Russia’s war in Ukraine putting pressure on the UK’s responsibilities abroad.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak sidestepped suggestions the conflict could lead to a rise in cash for defence, pointing to £24bn spent last year.
This comes after the government has come under severe pressure to address the cost of living crisis at home, with inflation soaring above seven per cent, and set to rise further, and interest rates hiked up for a third successive time.
Speaking on BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, he said the rise in defence spending during the Integrated Review in 2021 is “the largest increase in defence spending since the end of the Cold War and ensures that not only will we meet our Nato two per cent [of GDP] target, we will remain one of the largest defence spenders in NATO overall”.
“I’m glad that we did that and we acted, and did that before all this happened, which is a good thing.”
Meanwhile, with at least three million refugees fleeing Ukraine – with millions more internally displaced; a leading think tank urged Sunak said Britain’s aid budget was at “breaking point”.
The One group urged the chancellor to bring the UK’s foreign aid contribution back to 0.7 per cent of GDP, in wake of the £4bn cut to Britain’s contribution.
Sunak announced last March that foreign aid cuts would remain in place until 2024/5.
Romilly Greenhill, One’s UK director, said according to the Guardian: “We’re in a different world to when the aid budget was first cut. Since the chancellor announced the cut in 2020, circumstances have changed, and the justification that was used then no longer holds.”