Britain pledged to end the “era of retreat” by announcing a major increase in military spending, despite the coronavirus crisis pummelling the economy, as it seeks to define its post-Brexit role on the world stage.
New global role
Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace arrives in Downing Street to attend a cabinet meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, Britain, on November 3, 2020. (Reuters)
The military spending announcement comes just a week after Johnson promised US President-elect Joe Biden that Britain was determined to remain a valuable military ally.
Christopher Miller, acting US defense secretary in Trump’s outgoing administration, welcomed the extra spending.
“The UK is our most stalwart and capable ally, and this increase in spending is indicative of their commitment to NATO and our shared security,” he said. “With this increase, the UK military will continue to be one of the finest fighting forces in the world.”
The government said the increase will cement Britain’s position as the largest defense spender in Europe and second largest in NATO.
Britain’s main opposition Labour’s Party said the increase was long overdue after the ruling Conservative government had cut the size of the armed forces by a quarter in the last decade.
Media reports said billions of pounds could be cut from Britain’s foreign aid budget. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the defense spending would not come at the expense of aid.
“It doesn’t mean to say we are abandoning the battlefield of international aid, we’re still one of the most generous givers of international aid,” Wallace told Sky News.