Britain will get ‘left behind’ if more money isn’t spent on defence, Tory minister says

Tobias Ellwood MP. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Tobias Ellwood MP. Picture: Habibur Rahman
HMS Seahawk in Cornwall. Picture: Trevor Harris (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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PRESSURE is mounting on Theresa May to increase the nation’s military budget before it is ‘left behind’ following a demand from a top Tory minister today.

Defence minister Tobias Ellwood has said Britain needs to spend billions more on defence or risk ‘losing its place’ at the top table of international powers.

The retired army Captain was responding to a report by Britain’s defence committee which urged the government to spend at least three per cent of GDP on defence, more than the two it currently invests.

He is the latest Tory MP to back the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, in his on-going quest to get the chancellor, Philip Hammond, and Mrs May to stump up the cash desperately needed to fill a ‘black hole’ worth billions in the military’s budget.

Speaking to the committee during a hearing in the Commons, Mr Ellwood said the campaign had become ‘undignified’ and that a more ‘reasoned, convincing and cost-effect argument’ was needed that ‘united’ opinion.

He said: ‘We need to persuade all MPs, not just 20, that a failure to invest would lead to a demise in our capabilities at the very time our world is getting more dangerous.

‘We need to persuade the treasury that the world is getting more dangerous and, with a post-Brexit economy, evermore reliant on the security and access to international markets.

‘Without that access there is no prosperity. With no prosperity then there’s no money going into the coffers of the treasury and there’s no money for any departments.’

He said it was important to ‘underline’ that defence posture ‘does matter’.

It, he said, allowed Britain to sit ‘with authority at the international top table’, helping the UK to ‘shape global events’.

He added: ‘We have to decide who we are in this changing and dangerous world. We need to make sure that we are a force for good as global rules are challenged.

‘I do believe we can only achieve this if we see an increase in defence spending of at least 2.5 per cent.

‘The world is changing fast and I don’t want us to be left behind.’

Dr Julian Lewis, chairman of the cross-party group of MPs, welcomed Mr Ellwood’s stance on defence funding.

He added the additional half a per cent would equate to an extra £10bn going into the defence each year, of which £8bn would go to the MoD.

The news comes a week after reports the PM asked Mr Williamson to ‘justify’ Britain remaining a tier-one military power.

The status is a confirmation of Britain’s ability to act as a top-level warfighting nation.