The Ministry of Defence has denied the United Kingdom has failed to reach NATO’s defence spending target of 2% of GDP.

British defence spending was 1.98% of GDP in 2016 say the International Institute for Strategic Studies, below the 2% target set out by NATO.


An MOD Spokesperson said:

“These figures are wrong: NATO’s own figures clearly show that the UK spends over 2% of its GDP on defence. Our defence budget is the biggest in Europe, the second largest in NATO, and it is growing each year as we invest £178 billion in new equipment and the UK steps up globally, with new ships, submarines and aircraft over the next decade.”

In 2006, NATO allies set a target to spend 2% of Gross Domestic Product on defence. The UK oftens meets this target but when reporting its defence expenditure to NATO, the UK now includes several items of expenditure which had not previously been included.

IISS director general John Chipman said:

“In 2016, only two European Nato states – Greece and Estonia – met the aim to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence, down from four European states that met this measure in 2015. The UK dipped slightly below this at 1.98 per cent, as its economy grew faster in 2016 than its defence spending.

“Nonetheless, the UK remained the only European state in the world’s top five defence spenders in 2016. If all Nato European countries were in 2016 to have met this 2 per cent of GDP target, their defence spending would have needed to rise by over 40 per cent.”

Recently, Labour MP Wayne David claimed that the 2% target was being met including retired personnel’s pensions, the government have so far declined to comment on this.

The United States has repeatedly called on European allies to contribute more and in recent years NATO’s Secretary General described declining European defence budgets as unsustainable when compared with increased Russian spending on its military.

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4 years ago

The 2% target is clearly non-science, only a handful of countries make it and so we should forget about it and focus on capability. It seems the government is spending way too much time focusing on fudging figures to say its making this fake target (and i suspect we are not alone and all other nato countries are doing the same). I would rather the debate around capability rather than constantly this stupid figure.

If there was a set way to calculate it, we could compare country vs country, but clearly its heavily open to interpretation and so non-sense.

Geoffrey Roach
Geoffrey Roach
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Good reply. We need to decide what we want to do based on a foreign policy that is cohesive. No matter how small or how large our commitment the defence budget should be about making sure that we have the finest equipment for what we have decided to achieve, not the other way around.

4 years ago

Easy go for 3%, less chance to dip below the target.