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How much does the UK spend on defence?

In 2021/22, the UK spent £45.9 billion on defence. This was £3.6 billion higher than the previous year (£2.5 billion higher after accounting for the effects of inflation).

The Ministry of Defence received a four-year settlement at Spending Review 2020, when the Government allocated an additional £16.5 billion to the defence budget over the period 2020/21 to 2024/25. The Government described this as the “largest sustained increase in the core defence budget for 30 years”.

How has defence funding changed recently?

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there were renewed calls for an increase to defence spending, particularly in the context of rising inflation since the start of the conflict in February 2022.

The Spring Budget 2023 allocated an additional £5 billion to defence spending over the next two years (2023/24 and 2024/25), and a further £2 billion per year in subsequent years up to 2027/28. This increases defence spending by a total of £11 billion over this five-year period.

As a result, the annual defence budget will be £5.8 billion higher in cash terms by the end of the current Spending Review period (£51.7 billion in 2024/25 compared with £45.9 billion in 2021/22). However, when adjusted for inflation, the increase in defence spending over this period is expected to be £1.1 billion.

Most of this additional funding has been allocated to capital budgets (money that is spent on major projects and investment), whereas the Ministry of Defence’s day-to-day budget is set to decline in real terms over this period.

As a member of NATO, the UK is committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence each year. It was one of just nine of NATO member countries to have met this target in 2022, spending 2.1% of GDP on defence.

As part of the Integrated Review Refresh 2023 (which sets out the UK Government’s national security and international policy), Prime Minister Rish Sunak set out a longer term ambition to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP. No timeframe has been given for achieving this goal. 

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