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Defence Defence

Meet the NATO commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence

Last updated: 12:12am 31 December 2018

We will continue to meet the NATO commitment to spend at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence…

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.41

Our verdict

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is a military alliance consisting of 29 North American and European countries. All members agree to collectively defend each other from external threats. In 2006, NATO allies set a target to spend 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defence.

NATO records show that the UK’s defence spending is one of the highest amongst members and hasn’t fallen below 2% since NATO records began.

This policy is a promise to maintain that record of annual defence spending at above 2% of GDP.

Under this government, the target has so far been met, with the latest figures showing defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP at 2.1%.

It is worth pointing out that government changed the way it calculates defence spending in 2015. War pensions, contributions to UN peacekeeping missions, and pensions for retired civilian Ministry of Defence (MoD) personnel were included for the first time. Experts have estimated the changes added between £2.2 billion and £5.7 billion to the overall defence spending figure. NATO confirmed the changes were in alignment with its guidelines, although the House of Commons Defence Committee noted concerns about what it referred to as “creative accounting” by the MoD.

Despite the debate around how the 2% total is calculated, NATO’s acceptance of the MoD’s numbers means this policy is ‘in progress’. If the 2% target is achieved throughout the government’s term of office, we’ll move this to ‘done’. Follow this policy for updates.

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