Keir Starmer says defence spending commitment ‘iron-clad’ – but refuses to set timetable

Comment on the photo, Sir Keir Starmer boarded a plane to Washington with his wife Victoria on Tuesday evening.

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer has said the UK has a “strong commitment” to spend 2.5% of national income on defence – but is still refusing to set a timetable for when the promise will be met.

Sir Keir travelled to Washington to attend the annual NATO summit, less than a week after winning the general election.

He and his wife Victoria received an invitation to visit the White House from President Joe Biden.

The prime minister said the new government would begin a review of the country’s future defence capabilities, which would set out a “roadmap” for reaching the 2.5% target.

“As we face multiple threats at home and abroad, we must ensure we are prepared to defend ourselves,” Sir Keir said.

“That is why I have immediately ordered a comprehensive review that will ensure Britain’s defences are secure in the future.”

Speaking before leaving for Washington, Sir Keir told reporters he was committed to spending 2.5% of GDP – a measure of the size of the economy – on defence “within our fiscal rules”.

But he added: “The strategic review must come first.”

This suggests that it will not happen quickly.

The Prime Minister added that the strategic review was “broader than money, it looks clearly at the challenges we face and the capabilities and makes sure the two are aligned”.

Armed Forces Minister Luke Pollard told the BBC’s Today programme that the defence review would take place next week and should be completed before a timetable could be confirmed.

“That’s one of the reasons why next week’s defence review is so important, because we need to sequence any spending increases to make sure we get there,” he said.

Asked if defense spending would be directly tied to economic growth, Bullard said economic growth was “non-negotiable.”

“If we can’t grow our economy there’s not going to be money to support those public services and the ambitions that we have, which includes defence – and defence itself can help with that growth mission,” he added.

During the election campaign, the Conservatives pledged to reach 2.5% by 2030 and criticised Labour for not meeting their commitment.

Labour insisted it would achieve the target when the country’s finances allowed it to do so.

23 of the 32 member states of the alliance are expected to achieve this goal this year.

The UK currently spends just over 2% of its GDP on defence.

The Prime Minister is accompanied on the trip by Foreign Secretary David Lammy, Defence Secretary John Healey and Director-General of the Exchange Nick Thomas-Symonds, who has responsibility for the UK’s relations with its European neighbours.

“Britain’s commitment to NATO is unwavering,” Mr Healey said, while Mr Lammy said “NATO is part of Britain’s DNA.”

Sir Keir said the summit “must be seen as a clear and united decision by NATO allies… to stand with Ukraine and confront Russian aggression”.

He said the support package for Ukraine that the UK was seeking to offer at the NATO summit “goes beyond the support that has been offered before”.

The trip will also give the Prime Minister his first opportunity to meet fellow world leaders in his new role.

This will be the first time he meets President Biden.

He has previously met with other leaders from NATO member states, such as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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