UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out the biggest programme of investment in British defence since the end of the Cold War in Parliament on Thursday, pumping in an extra 4 billion pound a year over the next four years.
Addressing the House of Commons via videolink, he said that the move will “end the era of retreat, transform our armed forces and bolster our global influence”.
The Opposition Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said he welcomed more defence spending but questioned how it would be funded and asked whether the money would be raised through tax rises.
The mega investment plan will fund space and cyber defence projects and is expected to create thousands of new jobs, Downing Street said.
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A new agency dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, the creation of a National Cyber Force and a new Space Command , capable of launching our first rocket in 2022, are among the areas for the investment focus.
I have taken this decision in the teeth of the pandemic because the defence of the realm must come first, Johnson said.
The international situation is more perilous and more intensely competitive than at any time since the Cold War and Britain must be true to our history and stand alongside our allies. To achieve this we need to upgrade our capabilities across the board, he said.
This is our chance to end the era of retreat, transform our Armed Forces, bolster our global influence, unite and level up our country, pioneer new technology and defend our people and way of life, he added.
In his speech to the Commons, Johnson set out a 16.5 billion pound increase above the Conservative Party manifesto commitment over four years.
Downing Street said the new plan takes into account the changing nature of adversaries since the Cold War era of tensions with Soviet Union in the 20th century.
Rather than being confined to some distant battlefield, those that seek to do harm to our people can reach them through the mobile phones in their pockets or the computers in their homes. To protect our citizens, UK defence therefore needs to operate at all times with leading, cutting-edge technology, Downing Street said.
This will be underpinned by a record investment of at least 1.5 billion pound extra and 5.8 billion pound total on military research and development and a commitment to invest further in the Future Combat Air System. These projects are expected to create up to 10,000 thousand jobs annually across the UK.
This settlement secures UK jobs and livelihoods, allows us to invest in our fantastic shipyards and aerospace industry, spreading prosperity to every corner of the UK, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.
Next year represents a huge opportunity for this country, and Defence will be at the forefront of creating the jobs and business opportunities that will help us build back from the pandemic, he said.
The UK government says the move reverses the systematic decline in the crucial area of R&D in the last 30 years, creating new advances which surmount the old limits of logistics and go beyond military use with a vast number of civilian applications such as autonomous vehicles and aviation.
The aim is to position the UK as a global leader in domains such as cyber and space and addressing weaknesses in defence arsenal.