Prime Minister Starmer Reaffirms UK’s Defence Spending Commitment

UK Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer has pledged a firm commitment to allocating 2.5% of the UK’s national income to defence, though he has not set a specific timeline for achieving this target.

Following his general election victory, Sir Keir traveled to Washington for the annual NATO defence summit, accompanied by his wife, Victoria, after receiving an invitation from President Joe Biden to the White House.

The prime minister announced his government would conduct a comprehensive review of the UK’s future defence needs, presenting a “roadmap” to reach the 2.5% target. “In facing multiple threats at home and abroad, we must ensure our readiness to defend ourselves,” Sir Keir stated. “Hence, I have immediately ordered a thorough review to secure Britain’s defences for the future.”

Before his departure to Washington, Sir Keir reiterated his commitment to spending 2.5% of GDP on defence “within our fiscal rules.” However, he stressed that the strategic review must precede any spending increases, indicating that the commitment might not be fulfilled immediately. “The defence and security of the nation is the first priority of government. That is well understood by me,” he told reporters.

The strategic review aims to align the UK’s defence capabilities with current challenges. During the election campaign, the Conservatives pledged to reach the 2.5% target by 2030 and criticized Labour for not matching their commitment. Labour has insisted it will meet the target when the nation’s finances allow.

NATO members have committed to spending at least 2% of their GDP on defence by 2024, though many are not meeting this goal. Currently, 23 of the alliance’s 32 member countries are projected to meet the target this year, with the UK spending just over 2%.

Accompanying the prime minister on this trip are Foreign Secretary David Lammy, Defence Secretary John Healey, and Paymaster General Nick Thomas-Symonds. Labour is keen to shed past perceptions of being weak on defence and national security, with new senior ministers emphasizing their strong commitment to these issues.

Mr. Healey declared, “Britain’s commitment to NATO is unshakeable,” while Mr. Lammy stated, “NATO is part of Britain’s DNA.”

Sir Keir described the summit as a demonstration of NATO allies’ “clear and united resolve to stand with Ukraine and stand up to Russian aggression.” He noted that the UK’s support package for Ukraine at the summit would exceed previous contributions.

This trip marks Sir Keir’s first opportunity to meet fellow world leaders in his new role, including his inaugural meeting with President Biden. He has previously met other NATO leaders such as French President, Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz.