ANY hope that a chancellor of the exchequer who is a former defence secretary might have taken a sympathetic view of the plight of Britain’s squeezed armed forces was dashed by the budget on November 22nd. Voters’ alarm about the wheezing condition of the National Health Service persuaded Philip Hammond to provide an extra dollop of cash for health, but there is no equivalent constituency expressing worry at the erosion of the country’s defensive capabilities. And despite his stint at the Ministry of Defence in 2011-14, Mr Hammond appears resistant to the sound of shoulder pips squeaking on the other side of Whitehall.
Britain is committed to spending the equivalent of 2% of its GDP on defence, and so the £35bn ($47bn) defence budget is due to rise by 0.5% in real terms over each of the next five years. That is a much more generous settlement than some other central government departments have been awarded (see chart).
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