Prime Minister Johnson announced he will increase his country’s military budget by $22 billion to establish a new space command and an artificial intelligence agency.
On Thursday, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his country’s biggest military increase in expenditure since the Cold War.
Johnson pledged to end the “era of retreat” as he seeks a more influential role in the world in the post-Brexit period.
“The era of cutting our defence budget must end, and it ends now,” Johnson told Parliament via video conference from Downing Street, where he is self-isolating having recently come into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.
“I have done this in the teeth of the pandemic, amid every other demand on our resources, because the defence of the realm and the safety of the British people must come first.”
The UK will spend extra money to upgrade military capabilities even as the novel coronavirus pandemic hits the economy and strains public finances.
He also outlined plans for a new space command, an artificial intelligence agency and a re energised Navy despite his already being Europe’s most powerful.
"We're going to use our extra defence spending to restore Britain's position as the foremost naval power in Europe," Johnson told the Commons.
The British warships and combat vehicles are planned to carry "directed energy weapons" to hit targets with "inexhaustible lasers".
"This will spur a renaissance of British shipbuilding across the UK. In Glasgow and South Belfast, Appledore and Birkenhead,” the Prime Minister said.
Johnson announced an extra £16.5 billion ($22 billion) of budget designated to military spending over the next four years. The country’s annual defence budget is around £42 billion ($55 billion).
The new space command and national cyberforce will be established by 2022 and will create 10,000 job opportunities, according to the British government.
Taking a new global role
The UK, as one of the leading military powers in the European Union, has long been the main ally of the United States in the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars.
Since the UK’s decision to leave the EU in 2016, negotiations remain as yet unfinalised, making its global role uncertain. China, on the other hand, possesses an unstoppable economic and military force, while President Donald Trump’s has cast doubt on US support for traditional allies.
Britain is the largest defence spender in Europe and second-largest in NATO.
Now, however, Johnson is attempting to make his country a major player - not only politically, but militarily, too.
Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director-general at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies’s think tank, said the new military budget means the UK will retain its position as a middle-rank military power alongside nations such as France, Germany and Japan, but well behind the United States and China.
“This is the government saying just because we have Brexit it doesn’t mean we are not a strong alliance player and punching above our weight as we have done for decades,” Chalmers told Reuters.