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UK set to publish ‘refresh’ of major defence and security review ahead of budget – with modest rise in spending expected

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The UK plans to release a “refresh” of a major defence and security review next week ahead of the budget, which is expected to include a modest rise in defence spending, Sky News understands.

Three sources said they expected the so-called “Integrated Review refresh” to be published on Monday – two days before the Chancellor unveils his spending plans on 15 March, but almost a week later than originally anticipated.

An initial draft of the document apparently had to be reworked because it did not sufficiently reflect the lessons from Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has exposed the urgent need to accelerate plans to rebuild the army’s warfighting capabilities, according to two, separate sources.

The latest version, though, may still only be a “tweak” of what had been a sweeping review of UK foreign, defence and security policy, published in March 2021, one source said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak inherited the refresh from Liz Truss.

She had ordered officials to look again at the Integrated Review, drawn up when Boris Johnson was in charge, to see whether any areas needed updating in the wake of Ukraine and also a hardening of views about the security challenges – or threats – posed by China.

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Could defence spending increase?

But Ms Truss had also pledged a significant increase in defence spending, vowing to lift the budget to 3% of GDP by the end of the decade up from 2% – the equivalent to an additional £157billion.

Mr Sunak, by contrast, has made no such commitment, despite the war in Ukraine revealing the extent to which successive governments have hollowed out the army in particular.

Sky News revealed in January that a senior US general had privately told Defence Secretary Ben Wallace the British Army is no longer regarded as a top-level fighting force.

Defence sources at the time said Mr Sunak risked failing in his role as “wartime prime minister” unless he took urgent action given the growing security threat posed by Russia.

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Is the British Army fighting fit?

Read more:
UK’s inability to replenish munitions stockpile ‘a risk to security’
Defence budget has been ‘raided’, says Ben Wallace

They claimed this should include increasing the defence budget by at least £3bn a year; halting a plan to shrink the size of the army even further; and easing peacetime procurement rules that obstruct the UK’s ability to buy weapons and ammunition at speed.

Mr Wallace was thought to have been pushing for up to £11bn extra over the next two years but may only receive less than half of that amount in the spring budget.

Mr Sunak is expected to make an announcement on UK defence spending during a trip to the United States this weekend.

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The Times quoted the defence secretary as having suggested a modest increase of £4bn to £5bn would be sufficient for the time being, and that the “real battle” for extra support would come after the next election.

A government spokesperson said: “The Integrated Review refresh is on track to be published in the spring as planned. It will set how the UK’s diplomatic, military and security architecture is keeping pace with evolving global threats.”

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