UK Politics

UKIP backing 2% defence spending target

Tornado aircraft Image copyright MOD
Image caption David Cameron has insisted the UK has one of the largest defence budgets in the world

UKIP has committed to spending 2% of the UK's GDP on defence if it has a role in government after the election.

Economic spokesman Patrick O'Flynn said the Nato target could be "comfortably met" by reducing the foreign aid budget, scrapping the HS2 rail link and reducing public funding for Scotland.

UKIP also promised more NHS cash and a personal tax allowance of £13,000.

The Conservatives said UKIP had already "spent" its foreign aid and HS2 savings in a number of different ways.

So far, both the Conservatives and Labour have refused to say they will ensure defence spending does not dip below the Nato target of 2% of economic output at some point during the next Parliament.

UKIP confirmed its defence spending pledge at a campaign event laying out its economic policies.

Party leader Nigel Farage said UKIP's plans would give "ordinary people a better chance in life".

He said his party would re-allocate money from the EU and foreign aid and a number of "vanity projects... to increasing spending on defence so that we actually can be a credible international country."

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Media captionPatrick O'Flynn announces how UKIP would save money, to spend more on the NHS and commit to spend 2% of the UK's GDP on defence

Mr Farage said: "We're the only party that can find extra money for our hard-pressed NHS without increasing borrowing."

On the state of the economy, the UKIP leader added: "This is a London-led and an asset-led recovery. If you own stocks and shares, if you own substantial property, I accept that this government's policies have not been bad for you.

"But the rest of Britain... is not feeling any particular bounce. And actually the truth of it is that most households are worse off than they were five years ago or 10 years ago, because of the massive, massive pressure on wages that has come directly as a result of uncontrolled mass migration and unskilled labour coming into this country."


Analysis

Robin Brant, BBC political correspondent

Image copyright PA
Image caption UKIP set out its economic policy earlier

Nigel Farage came to Middleton to remind the voters here - a supposedly safe Labour seat - of the by-election UKIP so nearly won last year.

He also wants to increase the pressure on the Tories with that spending commitment on defence - something David Cameron is yet to pledge.

UKIP was throwing a lot of numbers around - more for the military, more for the NHS, fewer people paying the higher rate of tax.

All achievable, it says, under a UKIP government that would save (a massive) £25bn by leaving the EU, ditching HS2 and taking an axe to the bulk of foreign aid.

It is all an attempt to make the party more credible on a raft of policies as the election approaches. All rubbish, though, say the Tories, who claim the foreign aid money alone has been 'spent' 16 different ways, so far.


Earlier, Mr O'Flynn told BBC Radio 4's Today that UKIP would spend £3bn a year more on defence than the Conservatives during the next Parliament, equivalent to about £16bn over five years.

David Cameron has come under intense pressure from some within his own party and an array of senior military figures who say the pledge is crucial to maintaining the country's defence capability.

Mr Cameron told MPs on Monday that the 2% target would be met "this year and next" and a future Conservative government would renew Trident on a like-for-like basis, protect the equipment budget and not allow regular army numbers to fall below 82,000 - pledges he described as "bankable assurances that will resonate on the doorstep".

The US government has made no secret of its disapproval if Britain continues to make significant cuts to defence spending.

Will Moy, director of the Full Fact organisation, told BBC Radio 4's The World at One he did not know where UKIP's figures on defence spending had come from, estimating that to increase spend from 1.9% to 2% would cost about £2bn a year.

He said the "sting in the tail" for parties offering to increase NHS spending was its effect on the social care budget, and described UKIP's planned savings from HS2 as "an awfully big ask" given that much of the cost will fall in future Parliaments.

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