Starmer vows to RAMP UP Nato spending and a Brexit RESET as he flies to Washington for crunch talks

Prime Minister Keir Starmer, Jens Stolenberg, Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron

Starmer vows to RAMP UP Nato spending and a Brexit RESET as he flies to Washington for crunch talks

PA
Christopher Hope

By Christopher Hope


Published: 09/07/2024

- 22:30

Updated: 10/07/2024

- 07:57

The Prime Minister has ordered a root-and-branch review of Britain’s defences

Sir Keir Starmer has a “cast iron commitment to spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence to respond to growing threats”, No10 has said, as the Prime Minister flies to Washington DC for a meeting with world leaders at a Nato summit.

A long-planned strategic defence review to weigh up the UK's spending priorities will start next week, with preparatory work already undertaken by Defence Secretary John Healey.


However Downing Street refused to give a deadline for when the UK will increase defence spending from 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

Starmer's wife Victoria is joining the Prime Minister on the visit and will attend a dinner in the White House with US President Joe Biden and his wife Jill.

Prime Minister Keir Starmer, Jens Stolenberg, Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel MacronStarmer vows to RAMP UP Nato spending and a Brexit RESET as he flies to Washington for crunch talksPA

The summit offers a chance for Starmer and his top team of ministers to hold bilateral meetings with other European leaders.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Europe minister, is attending the Nato summit alongside the Prime Minister, fuelling speculation that Starmer wants to use the occasion and the associated bilateral meetings to deepen defence ties with other EU nations.

Starmer has made clear that he wants to reset the UK's post-Brexit relationship with the EU.

Asked why Thomas-Symonds - who works out of the Cabinet Office and whose brief covers European relations and constitutional affairs - was attending the meeting, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: “Nato is a political and military alliance of countries in Europe and North America. It is not usual that the minister for Europe would accompany the Prime Minister.

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\u200b Olaf Scholz

The summit offers a chance for Starmer and his top team of ministers to hold bilateral meetings with other European leaders

PA

“The PM has said he wants to reset our relationship with Europe and has told a number of his European counterparts exactly that over the weekend.”

Starmer has already met with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz when he was Opposition leader.

Sir Keir will say today that the review will put a “Nato-first” policy at the heart of Britain’s defence plans.

The review will determine the future defence posture of the UK, the capabilities needed and will set out a roadmap to hitting the 2.5 per cent target.

Sir Keir said: “There is no more important duty for me as Prime Minister than keeping the people of our country safe.

“At a time when we face multiple threats at home and abroad, we must make sure we are ready to defend ourselves. That’s why I have immediately ordered a root-and-branch review that will secure Britain’s defences for the future.

“Working with our most important partners around the world, our Strategic Defence Review will make sure the UK is sending a clear message to those who seek to undermine peace and democracy – you will not succeed.”

\u200bNato's secretary general Jens Stoltenberg giving a press conference

Healey said that 'Britain’s commitment to Nato is unshakeable'

Reuters

The Strategic Defence Review will consider the nature of the threats we face – including Vladimir Putin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, instability in the Middle East and the rise of authoritarian countries - and the capabilities the UK needs to tackle them.

That includes the shape of the UK's Armed Forces and their readiness to fight, enhancing defence partnerships, developing a new defence industrial strategy, and delivering procurement reform.

The Review will be conducted in consultation with allies, industry and external experts and its recommendations will be reported to Starmer and Healey, as well as being laid before parliament.

Healey said: “Britain’s commitment to Nato is unshakeable. We cannot have prosperity without security and we must never take our ability to live freely for granted.

“Our Government’s first duty is to keep the country safe. That’s why we will increase defence spending and launch a Strategic Defence Review to ensure we have the capabilities needed to protect the UK now and in the future.

“The Review will also set out defence reforms to secure faster procurement and better value for money.”

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