Four-year budget for defence so military chiefs can plan for the future, says PM

More military hardware can now be ordered, Boris Johnson will say (Image: LPhot Kyle Heller)

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Britain's Armed Forces will be given a four-year budget deal as the UK confronts the most “perilous” foreign challenges since the Cold War, Boris Johnson revealed tonight.

The move means top brass can order expensive planes, ships and armoured vehicles – and comes after the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary beat the Treasury in a bitter power struggle for the public purse strings.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will limit Whitehall departments to one-year financial plans when he unveils the Spending Review on Wednesday.

He believes the £210billion blow to government coffers inflicted by the coronavirus crisis means longer-term plans cannot be justified.

But the Ministry of Defence, which faced a £14bn black hole, has been exempted after No10 mounted a rearguard.

The Prime Minister will announce on Thursday what Downing Street claims is “the biggest programme of investment in British defence since the end of the Cold War”.

The Prime Minister warned the international situation was more "perilous" than at any time since the end of the Cold War
(Image: via REUTERS)

Troops can expect upgraded kit because of the announcement

Mr Johnson said to night: “I have taken this decision in the teeth of the pandemic because the defence of the realm must come first.

“The international situation is more perilous and more intensely competitive than at any time since the Cold War and Britain must be true to our history and stand alongside our allies.

“To achieve this we need to upgrade our capabilities across the board.

“This is our chance to end the era of retreat, transform our Armed Forces, bolster our global influence, unite and level-up our country, pioneer new technology and defend our people and way of life.”

In a virtual statement to the Commons, Mr Johnson, who is self-isolating, will outline a £16.5bn cash boost over four years.

The money should unlock funds to order more F35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets, vital Fleet Solid Support ships to supply Royal Navy vessels at sea, and upgrade armoured vehicles.

The RAF and Royal Navy could order more F35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jets
(Image: Getty)

Rishi Sunak wanted one-year budget settlements across Whitehall
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

The money is on top of an existing pledge to increase defence spending by 0.5% above inflation for every year of this Parliament.

No10 says that on current forecasts, it means an overall cash hike of £24.1bn over four years compared with last year’s budget.

The PM will also announce a new agency dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, the creation of a National Cyber Force and a Space Command, which he hopes will be able to launch a British rocket in 2022.

Defence projects are set to create up to 10,000 thousand jobs a year across the UK, No10 said.

The green light could now be given to building Fleet Solid Support ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary to supply Royal Navy vessels

Hailing the PM's announcement, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “This is excellent news for defence and provides us with the financial certainty we need to modernise, plan for the future and adapt to the threats we face.

“This settlement secures UK jobs and livelihoods, allows us to invest in our fantastic shipyards and aerospace industry, spreading prosperity to every corner of the UK.

“Next year represents a huge opportunity for this country, and defence will be at the forefront of creating the jobs and business opportunities that will help us build back from the pandemic.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace
(Image: PA)

The cash comes as part of the Integrated Review of foreign, defence, development and security policies.

The full conclusions will be announced in the new year.

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey said: “This signals a welcome and long overdue upgrade to Britain’s defences after a decade of decline which the Prime Minister calls ‘the era of retreat’.

“Since 2010 the size of the Armed Forces has been cut by a quarter, defence spending was cut by over £7bn and the defence budget has a £13 billion black hole.

“The UK has the know-how to be a global leader in new domains such as cyber and space, as long as Government plays its part.

“As the MoD prepares the full conclusions of the Integrated Review, ministers must not repeat the mistakes of the last two Conservative defence reviews.

“High-tech weapons systems are essential but highly-trained British troops are indispensable, so Forces personnel must be at the heart of the Review.”

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