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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 July 2018

UK must increase defence spending to maintain global credibility, lawmakers warn

Insufficient investment in UK military risks harming British alliances

Britain's defence secretary Gavin Williamson arrives in Downing Street in London. Toby Melville/ Reuters
Britain's defence secretary Gavin Williamson arrives in Downing Street in London. Toby Melville/ Reuters

The UK government must increase its defence spending or risk its influence declining abroad, British lawmakers have warned.

Without further investment the government will not be able to maintain Britain’s military capabilities and reduce its usefulness to the US as a NATO ally, a report by the parliamentary defence committee said on Tuesday.

UK defence spending was £42 billion (DH204 billion) in 2016, representing 2.18% of GDP. The report recommends increasing spending to 3% of GDP, which would require an additional £20 billion.

Lawmakers said the UK’s decision to leave the European Union put NATO “at the cornerstone of the security policy of Europe and the UK”.

“If the UK wishes to maintain its leadership position within NATO and to continue fruitful defence relations with the United States, then it will have to invest more in its Armed Forces,” the report added.

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US defence secretary James Mattis warned earlier in the year that the capacity of some of the US’s allies “have been shrunk to a point” at which they could not “speak with strength”. British lawmakers on a visit to the US were told the warning had been "directed at the United Kingdom”.

Last month, defence secretary, Gavin Williamson described the UK as an “indispensable ally” to the US and that it was doing a lot of heavy lifting in the Gulf region.

Mr Williamson said that the UK should look “to do more” in NATO, while pointing to British minesweepers in the Gulf as a “world-leading capability in something that, frankly, the Americans would dearly love to have”. The UK currently operates a naval base in Bahrain, where five ships are based.

The Ministry of Defence said that the UK maintained the biggest defence budget in Europe and exceeded NATO’s 2% spending target.

It said the “unparalleled extent of UK-US cooperation” plays a “major role in guaranteeing the national security of both our countries.