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'BORIS JOHNSON SIGNALS INCREASE IN DEFENCE SPENDING AS HE LAUNCHES REVIEW OF BRITAIN'S PLACE IN THE WORLD '

The review will look how at the UK "better use technology and data to adjust to the changing nature of threats we face", Number 10 said

By Christopher Hope, Chief Political Correspondent; Gordon Rayner, Political Editor; and Dominic Nicholls, Defence and Security Correspondent

Daily Telegraph – 26 February 2020

Boris Johnson last night signalled the first major increase in defence spending for five years as he unveiled the biggest review of Britain's place in the world since the end of the Cold War. The Prime Minister said the UK cannot "rest on its laurels" and had to develop new technologies to deal with emerging threats in the 21st century.

As a result of the review, defence spending, which has been pegged at 2 per cent of GDP or £38billion a year since 2015, could increase, Number 10 confirmed. The Government-wide Integrated Review will cover "priorities and objectives" for the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and Department for International Development. It will be led by Sir Alex Ellis, the deputy National Security Adviser, with advice from Mr Johnson's foreign affairs special adviser Professor John Bew.

The review will look how at how the Armed Forces spends public money on equipment, an area where Mr Johnson's chief adviser Dominic Cummings has been critical. It will also look at how the UK can

"better use technology and data to adjust to the changing nature of threats we face – from countering hostile state activity to strengthening our Armed Forces".

Mr Johnson said last night that the UK

"cannot rest on our laurels. We must do more to adapt. We will be judged by how we respond to the opportunities ahead. As the world changes we must move with it – harnessing new technologies and ways of thinking to ensure British foreign policy is rooted firmly in our national interests, now and in the decades ahead.”  

Downing Street would only publicly confirm that the UK will continue to commit to spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence and 0.7pc of GDP on international development after it has completed. However the Conservatives' 2019 election manifesto commits the UK

"to continue to exceed the NATO target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence and increase the budget by at least 0.5 per cent above inflation every year of the new Parliament".

Downing Street sources made clear that – unlike previous reviews in 2010 and 2015 – the Integrated Review will not have to be "cost neutral" which means that overall defence spending can increase as a result. The source said:

"Previous spending reviews were set within the parameters that they needed to be cost neutral. That is not the case with this one. It's not set up, as previous spending reviews were, with the specific intention of being cost neutral. It is being conducted in line with the comprehensive spending review."

The source added the need to be cost neutral had meant that

"if a new piece of kit was needed in one area, it meant losing something elsewhere. In this instance, that’s not a requirement so could mean we spend more overall than is currently the case."

It will run in tandem with the Comprehensive Spending Review – which sets departmental budgets for several years from April next year and is due to report in the Autumn.

Tobias Ellwood MP, the Conservative chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said:

"With global threats increasing we now speak frequently speak of the erosion to our rules based order. Yet few nations are willing to step forward and defend them. If ‘Global Britain’ is have true meaning it must include the means and desire to help shape it."

Tory MP Julian Lewis, Mr Ellwood's predecessor as Committee chairman, added that previously any increase in cyber and intelligence capabilities could come only by inflicting unacceptable cuts in the Armed Forces. He added:

"By linking the combined review with the next spending round, progress should be possible towards the necessary three percent goal repeatedly recommended by the Defence Select Committee.”

But Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, warned:

"Britain’s foreign policy direction risk being dominated by the Treasury rather than a bold revaluation of our place in the world. "This same approach led to the failed reviews of previous years.”