Politics

PM: Extra Defence Funding To 'Restore UK's Position As Europe's Foremost Naval Power'

Boris Johnson said UK warships and combat vehicles will carry "directed energy weapons" to destroy targets with "inexhaustible lasers".

The Prime Minister has said billions of pounds of extra defence spending will "restore Britain’s position as the foremost naval power in Europe".

On Thursday, Boris Johnson set out a £16.5bn increase in funding to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) over the next four years.

Mr Johnson said the boost will result in a "renaissance of British shipbuilding" across the country.

"If there is one policy which strengthens the UK in every possible sense it is building more ships for the Royal Navy," he said.

He added the UK "shall deploy" more naval assets in what he called "the world's most important regions" that protect the shipping lanes that supply the UK.

The PM also said the UK will also "press on with renewing our nuclear deterrent".

The boost is being billed by Downing Street as the biggest investment in the military since the end of the Cold War.

The increase is on top of a promised 0.5% annual increase in real terms.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said while he welcomes the additional defence funding, it is "a spending announcement without a strategy".

The Royal Navy has two aircraft carriers - HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales - although neither are yet operational.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement, he told the Commons: "Under my leadership, national security will always be Labour’s top priority.

"Britain must once again show global leadership and be a moral force for good in the world – both in how we tackle present and emerging security threats, but also in how we build a fairer, greener and more secure world.

"So we welcome this additional funding for our defence and security forces and we agree that it is vital to end what the Prime Minister calls – I have to say, with complete lack of self-awareness – an era of retreat."

Mr Johnson said a "once-in-a-generation modernisation" of the Armed Forces is required to extend British influence, adding emerging technologies "visible on the horizon" will make the returns from defence investment "infinitely greater".

He told MPs: "The latest advances will multiply the fighting power of every warship, aircraft and infantry unit many times over, and the prizes will go to the swiftest and most agile nations – not necessarily the biggest."

Boris Johnson 051020 CREDIT PA
Boris Johnson said the international situation is "now more perilous and intensely competitive" than at any time since the Cold War (Picture: PA).

The Prime Minister also said UK warships and combat vehicles will carry "directed energy weapons" to destroy targets with "inexhaustible lasers".

The funding announcement marks the first phase of the Government’s Integrated Review of the UK’s foreign, defence, development and security policy.

The final conclusions are due to be unveiled next year.

Number 10 said the increased funding will allow the Government to invest in cutting-edge technology, positioning the UK as a global leader in domains such as cyber and space, as well as addressing any current weaknesses. 

A new agency dedicated to Artificial Intelligence (AI) will also be announced by the Prime Minister, in addition to the creation of a National Cyber Force and a new Space Command that the Government claims will launch its first rocket in 2022.

Number 10 also said there will be £5.8bn spent on military research and development - an increase of £1.5bn - and the creation of 10,000 jobs annually over the four-year period.

Earlier, the Defence Secretary was asked whether the extra funding for the military would mean less money for the foreign aid budget.

Ben Wallace said the Chancellor will set out where the billions of pounds for the military has come from.

He added the new funds will allow the Government to "modernise our forces", telling BBC Breakfast he had seen the Armed Forces using "equipment that was out-of-date".

Cover image: Royal Navy ircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in the North Sea last month (Picture: Royal Navy).