The Curious Incident of Mr Cameron and the United Kingdom Defence Budget: A New Legacy?

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During 2015 Prime Minister Cameron was under intense domestic and international pressure over his apparent reluctance to maintain United Kingdom defence spending at the NATO target level of 2 per cent of GDP. Most commentators attributed this reluctance to the inevitability of defence cuts if the government wished meet its deficit reduction targets. However, the aftermath of the general election saw a sudden decision to maintain UK defence spending at the NATO target level. This u-tern is one of the more curious episodes in recent British defence policy. In this article we explore the reasons why, at a time of continuing cuts and austerity measures and against all the political signals, a decision was made to meet the 2 per cent target, and what this means for the UK’s defence policy. In doing so, we analyse why most commentators assumed that defence cuts were inevitable, the domestic and international factors that explain the government’s apparent u-turn and what this revised defence budget settlement meant for the new 2015 National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-53
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • United Kingdom / defence policy / NATO / Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) / National Security Strategy (NSS)


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