Britain’s defence budget — which presently barely scrapes the minimum required for NATO membership — is too low and should more than treble, the nation’s defence minister has strongly implied.
Arguing that the nation takes a stable security situation for granted and that the British armed forces are under-funded, Conservative minister Tobias Ellwood compared the situation of 2018 with the Cold War, when defence spending was much higher.
The contemporary situation includes emerging threats from Russia, China, and others where the government spends just two per cent of GDP on defence but nearly ten per cent on healthcare. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the minister said during the Cold War the government spent equally on defence, education, and healthcare.
Even After Trump Criticism, U.K. Fails to Meet NATO Defence Spending Minimum Second Year Running https://t.co/FK8DQuR5Ph
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 14, 2018
If defence spending were to rise to a parity with the NHS, it would have to increase by some 215 per cent to roughly £145 billion a year, from £46 billion in 2017.
Ellwood told the paper:
You go back to the 1970s and 1980s and there was a parity between defence spending compared with health and education – and today we have dropped back to 2 per cent.
The Government often does what people call for. If people call for more money for schools and hospitals, that is often where the money then flows. It is important we raise the profile of the dangers of reducing our defence posture. Once you lose it, you will never get it back.
I am deeply concerned we have a nation which is fully appreciative of our Armed Forces but which takes our security for granted.
The world is getting more dangerous. Britain must be able to step forward – we will only do that if we invest in the full spectrum of capabilities. That is why we must increase our defence spending.
Despite making the case for defence budget rises to these higher levels, Ellwood emphasised he would not name a specific amount for fear of backlash from the Civil Service, the permanent government which remains in power regardless of which political party controls the Houses of Parliament.
As things presently stand, the British military is struggling to pay for essential equipment upgrades, including critical ships for the Royal Navy and aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force. It was reported on Thursday that the Prime Minister is under increasing pressure to pull out of a deal with the United States to buy advanced F-35 jets and to buy cheaper and less capable Eurofighters instead.
France to Boost Military Spending After Trump NATO Target Criticism https://t.co/6vqfp11yMa
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 8, 2018
The United Kingdom’s approximate two per cent spend on defence puts it just within the minimum level required by members of the NATO military alliance, of which Britain, France, and the United States are the key leading nations. Breitbart London reported in February that the UK had actually failed to meet the target with military spending two years running, only just crossing the line by packing out the accounts with army pensions.
The British government disputes the claim, stating that adding pensions to defence spending calculations is acceptable under NATO rules.
The United States has long picked up the bill for mutual defence, considerably outspending the rest of NATO while the vast majority of other members have consistently failed to meet the two per cent minimum. President Trump has berated NATO members for failing to pay their share.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 21, 2016
The UK’s dedication to self-defence is so questionable a senior U.S. general was moved in 2017 to warn the nation not to cut the military any further, stating Britain could risk becoming a second-rate power unable to fulfil its international commitments.