BORIS Johnson has torn up his flagship manifesto promise to increase defence spending by 0.5 per cent above inflation every year in a major blow to our boys.
The Prime Minister touches down in Madrid this afternoon for the annual NATO summit amid a growing row about the Ministry of Defence budget and the Ukraine war.
BoJo’s allies have admitted his major Armed Forces spending promise can no longer be met because of soaring inflation.
In his winning 2019 Conservative manifesto, Mr Johnson vowed to “continue to exceed the NATO target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence and increase the budget by at least 0.5 per cent above inflation every year of the new Parliament”.
But with inflation set to hit 11 per cent by the end of the year, a Government source said: “The manifesto was written before £400 billion had to be spent locking people up for their own safety because of the global pandemic.”
They added: “There is a reality check on things that were offered in a different age which is the only reasonable thing that we can expect.”
The PM is expected to use this week’s gathering of the 30 strong Western alliance to signal a small hike of a round £1 Billion in Defence cash to bolster support for Ukraine.
But this afternoon he dodged a string of questions on whether he would give the green light to huge hikes in defence cash – as ministers like Ben Wallace and Liz Truss have repeatedly called for.
As he left the G7 in Germany for Spain, he slapped down demands for a hike hike – saying Britain had “more than met” our pledge to exceed the 2% of defence spending promised.
But he added: “we have to respond to the way the threats continue to change” in Ukraine.
He did “not think it will come to” war between Britain and Russia.
His spokesman said today last year’s £15 billion defence uplift “cemented the UK’s position as the biggest defence spender in Europe.”
Yesterday NATO said the UK would spend 2.12 per cent of GDP on Defence this year – but the PM has been repeatedly warned that the sacred target of 2 per cent is set to be missed by 2025 without a major cash injection.
Whitehall insiders said Chancellor Rishi Sunak has repeatedly blocked such a move before the Autumn Budget despite multiple warnings from Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
Today Mr Wallace again publicly called for an increase in investment in the Armed Forces due to the increased threat from Russia.
He told the New Statesman’s Live: “If the threat changes you need to have that discussion about investing rather than taking [the peace dividend].”
And breaking the major manifesto promise also puts Mr Johnson on another collision course with his Tory backbenchers – some of whom want a four per cent hike this year.
Justifying tearing up the manifesto, the source close to the PM continued: “The intention is always to honour manifesto commitments but they were made before £400 billion was spent coping with a global pandemic that none could have possibly foreseen.”
The prime minister’s spokesperson added: “We are committed to that and the 2 per cent but again I’m not speculating on future fiscal commitments.”