Defence spending boost will show world ‘Britain is back’, says Jeremy Hunt
Conservative leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has proclaimed that “Britain is back” and said he hopes his defence spending pledge will show the world the country is confident despite Brexit paralysis.
The Foreign Secretary promoted a rallying call for Britain to “walk tall in the world” during a visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where he shook hands with Chelsea pensioners.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Hunt vowed to increase defence spending by 25% over five years if the doors to Number 10 opened to him.
Announcing the pledge, he said the extra £15 billion if he is made prime minister will help combat “new threats to western values”.
The Tory leadership hopeful said his conversations with the EU have led him to believe what they value most about Britain is its commitment to defence.
He said: “They look at us now and they see all this Brexit paralysis and they wonder what’s happening to Britain, and I want them to know that Britain is here, Britain is back, Britain’s voice is going to be strong in the world and that’s why we are going to be a country that spends more money on defence, two-and-a-half per cent of our GDP, we can afford it within my spending plans that will still bring down debt.
“But this is a moment that we need to send that signal to the world of confidence. Confidence about Britain, confidence about what we stand for and confidence that British people are not going to pull down the shutters and stop engaging with the world. We’re going to be out there, standing up for the values we believe in.”
Mr Hunt added: “We’ve had a very bumpy period in the last few months, and years, people have looked at Brexit paralysis and they want to know ‘is this still a confident country?’ and they look at aggression from Russia, they look at all the instability in the Middle East, and I want them to know Britain is a confident country, we’re going to carry on championing democratic values, we are going to be there alongside the United States, our closest ally, and it’s about the kind of country we are.
“And it’s about me as a person who’s saying that’s the kind of prime minister I want to be, a prime minister who’s going to make Britain walk tall in the world, and I think that’s very important that we do that at the point of Brexit.”
The Foreign Secretary was accompanied by one of his backers, Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, during his visit to the hospital in Chelsea, south-west London.
The pair were welcomed by General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, before being shown the hospital chapel.
Vice Admiral Charles Style, a friend of Mr Hunt’s father, accompanied them.
The pair then met Chelsea pensioner Colin Thackery, who won Britain’s Got Talent this year.
Mr Thackery saluted the Foreign Secretary before the pair shook hands, telling him: “May I wish you luck, sir.”
Mr Hunt replied: “Thank you very much indeed, very nice to see you, thank you for coming.”
Mr Hunt and Ms Mordaunt spent several minutes chatting to former armed service personnel.