Boris Johnson unveils the UK's biggest military budget in 30 years

The 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom arrives at the British territory of Gibraltar on Friday Feb. 9 2018

Britain will increase its defense budget by 16.5 billion pounds (21.8 billion USA dollars) in the next four years, the biggest military investment since the Cold War, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.

He outlined plans on Thursday for a new space command, an artificial intelligence agency and said the navy would be restored as Europe's most powerful.

Defence isn't just about defending the United Kingdom from external threats however, it has also been at the forefront of the UK's humanitarian responses in places such as Lebanon and Central American countries after Hurricane Eta.

Johnson is to tell lawmakers remotely, because he is self-isolating after coming into contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus, that the armed forces will receive an additional 16.5 billion pounds ($21 billion) over and above the government's current plans.

"I have taken this decision in the teeth of the pandemic because the defence of the realm must come first", Johnson said in a statement.

Scotland will host the rocket launches and much of a new programme of naval shipbuilding, Johnson said, as he pushes back against a resurgent campaign for independence by the Scottish National Party.

The UK, as one of the leading military powers in the European Union, has always been the main ally of the United States in the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars. China, on the other hand, possesses an unstoppable economic and military force, while President Donald Trump's has cast doubt on United States support for traditional allies.

The government said the increased military spending will cement the UK's position as the largest defence spender in Europe, the second-largest in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and allow increased investment in areas such as cyberspace and space. These and other new projects will create up to 10,000 jobs, the government said.

"For decades, British governments have trimmed and cheese-pared our defense budget, and if we go on like this, we risk waking up to discover that our armed forces, the pride of Britain, have fallen below the minimum threshold of viability", Johnson said.

When asked about media reports that billions of pounds could be cut from Britain's foreign aid budget, Johnson said higher defence spending would not come at the expense of aid.

"We can all be proud of our record on overseas aid and that will continue, but it's also by investing in armed services that you can do some of the greatest things for the poorest and neediest people around the world", he said. "This country is, has been, and will remain one of the biggest contributors to aid on earth".



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