Jeremy Hunt has pledged to increase defence spending and cancel “unthinkable” planned cuts to the size of the Army in the face of the threat posed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
The Tory leadership hopeful said he would spend 3% of gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the size of the economy, on defence by 2028 if he were elected to succeed Boris Johnson.
Without doing so, the UK risks slipping further down the Nato defence spending league table, he warned.
The former foreign secretary would also stop the cuts set out in the 2021 Spending Review in his first Budget, as “now is not the time to be reducing the army by nearly 10,000 personnel”, according to a press release from his leadership campaign.
We must put our money where our mouth is and prove that we understand the first duty of Government is keeping people safeJeremy Hunt
Mr Hunt said: “Whatever other pressures we face, tumbling down the Nato defence spending league table simply cannot be an option for Global Britain.
“We’re facing a long-term war of attrition in Europe, so we have to get real about the implications for our defence budget.
“The planned cuts to our armed forces are now unthinkable; we must put our money where our mouth is and prove that we understand the first duty of Government is keeping people safe”.
The pledge would amount to an extra £86 billion cumulatively over the next five years in order to reach the 3% goal, according to the campaign’s estimates.
It is unclear how this would be funded. Mr Hunt’s campaign has been contacted for comment.
Outgoing Prime Minister Mr Johnson recently committed to increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP by the end of the decade, following a Cabinet spending row over the issue.
But this is not enough to prevent Britain from losing its leading position within Nato and falling behind countries in the spending league table including Poland and Lithuania, which have upped their military budgets following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Mr Hunt.
The 55-year-old has also promises to give Ukraine more military support if needed.
Mr Hunt, whose campaign slogan is “Win Back Trust”, has also vowed to slash corporation tax to 15% and remove business rates for five years in the poorest communities.
But he would keep the national insurance rise and any cut in income tax could only come if it was sustainable, with a growing economy.