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Boris Johnson tries to defuse row after ditching defence spending pledge

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theguardian.com

Boris Johnson has sought to defuse anger over a No 10 briefing that he would ditch a manifesto commitment on defence spending but faced criticism from Labour for breaking a pledge made even more crucial by the Ukraine war.Speaking to reporters en route to the Nato summit in Madrid from the gathering of G7 leaders in southern Germany, the UK prime minister insisted the 2019 manifesto commitment to increase the defence budget by at least 0.5% a year above inflation would not be breached.On Monday, it emerged that No 10 had been warning it will most likely ditch the 0.5%-plus-inflation target, with the inflation rate above 9% and expected to rise.A senior government source said there was a need for “a reality check on things that were offered in a different age”, also citing the money spent on Covid measures.“The intention is always to honour manifesto commitments, but they were made before £400bn was spent coping with a global pandemic that no one could have possibly foreseen,” they said.The stance could cause a clash with the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, who has reportedly written to Johnson to seek a defence spending target of 2.5% of GDP.

He will also be at the Nato summit.Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons defence committee, told the Guardian he was concerned about the dropping of the manifesto commitment and called for a rapid increase in defence spending to a target of 3% of GDP over the next three years.Asked if he would be concerned about the abandonment of the 0.5% measure, he said: “Very much so.

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