In his first defence speech since stepping down, Michael has called on the government to set a new, higher target of 2.5 per cent of GDP for defence spending by the end of the Parliament, warning that Britain’s “security is at stake”.
Michael listed the “new and growing threats” since he took office in July 2014. He highlighted the threats Daesh posed in the Middle East to energy supplies, key shipping lanes and allies in the Gulf as well as inspiring attacks on British and European cities. He also noted the increasing use of cyber by state and non-state actors sheltered by Russia, Iran and North Korea, and the fragility of democracies in Africa.
Michael warned of the increasing spending gap with Russia. He said Britain “has to do better” than the NATO 2 per cent target in light of increased Russian naval activity, cyber and hybrid insurgence and its proxy war in Ukraine.
Michael also reviewed the pressures on the defence budget from the decline in sterling, the need to reprofile nuclear spending, and to deliver efficiency savings earlier. He wants the Treasury to provide immediate relief of £1 billion, in return for removing back-office and inter-service duplication. “Efficiency savings are a continuous process, not a one-off exercise,” he said: “all three services need to work much more collaboratively in everything from helicopters to medical and logistics support”. In return, defence spending should rise from 2.1 per cent to 2.5 per cent of GDP over the next four years.
Concluding his speech, Michael called on Britain to reassess its role in the world. “If we retreat from our vision of a confident, outward-looking Global Britain”, he cautioned, “then we will drift downwards to being a bit-part world player, a part-time champion of democracy and freedom. That would mean walking away from our international obligations, letting down our allies, and in the end leaving us less safe.
“On the contrary, we should be doing more in the world: our troops, planes and ships should be seen on every continent, in every sky, on all seven seas. And our ambition needs a fully-funded budget to match.”
Read Michael’s speech here: Reflections on Defence speech 22nd January 2018.