LONDON, U.K. - An analysis has indicated that the U.K. is no longer meeting NATO’s spending target, in what proved to be an embarrassment for the British Government.
Prior to Sir Michael Fallon’s visit to Brussels for a NATO defence ministers' meeting, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said that Britain was no longer spending the stipulated 2 percent of GDP on defence.
This is particularly important as Theresa May had promised Donald Trump that she would encourage other European countries to meet the alliance's target.
Previously, the U.K. had been one of only five NATO countries to meet the spending target, but now, along with Poland, it has fallen from the position.
Only the United States, Estonia and Greece meet the spending pledge currently.
During his political campaign, Trump had said that the U.S. should consider not providing military aid to countries that were unable to meet the two percent target.
The IISS report claims that the U.K. was now spending only 1.98 percent of its GDP on military, which amounts to a 380 million pound shortfall.
However, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence has rejected the figures.
He said, "These figures are wrong: NATO’s own figures clearly show that the U.K. spends over two percent 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 pounds in new equipment and the U.K. steps up globally, with new ships, submarines and aircraft over the next decade."
Labour’s shadow Defence Secretary, Nia Griffith, said that the Government had "changed its accounting methods" to "give the illusion of keeping the commitment.”
She has called the breach "utterly unacceptable.”
She said, “This report exposes the Government’s complete and shocking failure to maintain its commitment on defence spending to our Armed Forces and to the country.
“Just weeks after the Prime Minister was lecturing our allies about increasing spending to meet the two percent NATO commitment, it is now clear that her Government is unwilling to commit the necessary resources to our nation’s defences.”
“As the Defence Select Committee has shown, the MoD was already barely scraping over the two percent mark and had changed its accounting methods to give the illusion of keeping the commitment. To be spending less than two percent of GDP on defence is utterly unacceptable, particularly in this time of immense global uncertainty.
“Labour is committed to spending at least two percent of our GDP on defence spending, as we consistently did when in government.”
Meanwhile, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said that "fair burden-sharing and increased defense spending underpins the trans-Atlantic alliance.”
He added that some allies were "really struggling.”
Dr Giegerich, IISS director of defence and military analysis, said, "We have for 2016 the spending at 38.3 billion pounds. In dollar terms at $52.5 billion. That equates to 1.98 percent of the GDP.”
"The obvious point here is that British GDP growth for 2016 was estimated to be 1.8 percent and defence spending therefore grew at a slower rate and hence you have that development.”
"Now if you project forward, unless that situation changes this trend will be the direction of travel."