Rishi tipped to sign multibillion pound defence budget uplift

Rishi Sunak will reportedly announce a huge multibillion-pound spending increase on defence during a trip to the US to meet Joe Biden next weekend. The Prime Minister will be meeting the US president and Australian PM Anthony Albanese to discuss the trilateral nuclear submarine pact, AUKUS.

UK-based sources told the Sunday Times of Mr Sunak’s intention to announce the spending boost. The cash injection for the Ministry of Defence will come just days before the Spring Budget on March 15.

According to insiders, Mr Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt have agreed to boost defence spending by “several billion” pounds over the next two years.

The amount remains less than the £10billion originally demanded by defence secretary Ben Wallace. The high demands come due to higher levels of funding for NATO and Ukraine.

Since February 2022, the UK committed £2.3billion in military assistance to Ukraine. It is expected to match this in 2023, and includes hosting a training programme (Operation Interflex), which is supported by several allies, with the aim of training 10,000 new and existing Ukrainian personnel within 120 days.

The UK also recently committed to training Ukrainian fast jet pilots but has said that combat fighter aircraft will not be provided, at least in the short term.

Inflation, as well as the demands of AUKUS and increasing public sector wages and pensions is also hitting the defence ministry’s coffers.

During the US-based meeting, Mr Sunak, Mr Biden and Mr Albanese are expected to discuss their preferred submarine design for Australia’s replacement fleet.

In the new deal, the three nations are sharing classified military capabilities in order to allow Australia to construct and deploy nuclear-power submarines in the Pacific region.

This has been tipped as a counter to Chinese military power in the area, and beat out an existing £47billion deal Australia had with France to buy 12 French diesel-electric submarines. President Macron was infuriated by the snub and recalled France’s ambassadors to the US and Australia in response.

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The coming two-day visit to the US will also see the two world leaders discuss Mr Sunak’s new deal on post-Brexit trading agreements in Northern Ireland in a private meeting.

Mr Biden had previously disapproved of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s more aggressive approach which saw negotiations stall for months on end.

But the US president’s involvement in the Northern Ireland negotiations may not end there, with speculation growing that he intends to visit the devolved state next month for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

This will reportedly only occur if power-sharing is resumed, with Stormont currently and a standstill while the DUP protests the existing trading arrangement with the EU.

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