UK is too tight on the money and too vague on China

From: Chatham House
Published: Wed Mar 15 2023


The new UK Integrated Review fills gaps left by the last one but is dominated by defence. It needs more clarity on Europe, trade, and development - and more money.

Following a long two years, the UK's Integrated Review from March 2021 now looks prescient in calling Russia the main threat to UK interests. And Russia's invasion of Ukraine is the main - but not the only - reason forcing an update of the review only 24 months later.

The UK's commitment to Ukraine is now centre stage and so therefore is its cost, which immediately exposes a prime weakness of this review. An extra 5 billion on defence is more than nothing, as was originally rumoured, but far less than 11 billion which UK defence secretary Ben Wallace argues is needed.

UK military support for Ukraine cost 2.3 billion in the past year and a continuation will use up 2 billion of the new money. The report also notes 3 billion will go on infrastructure for building nuclear submarines at Barrow and nuclear training. That does not leave much for anything else.

There is a pledge to end the reduction of the armed forces which is essential if the UK contribution to Ukraine and European defence is to be credible. But an ambition to spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence by an unspecified date is all but meaningless - albeit prudent phrasing given fiscal uncertainties.

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Company: Chatham House

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