Rishi Sunak warned Putin could 'switch UK lights off' as key vulnerability laid bare

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Rishi Sunak has been warned Vladimir Putin could “switch the lights off” in the UK, with Defence Select Committee Chair Tobias Ellwood calling for the Prime Minister to boost defence spending. Mr Ellwood called for Mr Sunak to commit to spending 3 percent of GDP on defence by 2030. The MP, who chairs the Defence Select Committee, told Express.co.uk that there is a close relationship between national security and the UK economy.

He explained: “If you want to lower the cost of food then look to Odessa to get the grain shipments out – you need a robust maritime capability and that means investment in the Navy.

“If you want to look after the skies in Britain you need a capable airforce.

“Likewise with the army, but the last air review cut our land force.”

He added: “For this reason, absolutely we need to invest more in defence. It’s not just about national security, it’s about economic security.”

Mr Ellwood said that the new Prime Minister should be aware of “just how vulnerable our economy is” and “how easy it is to disrupt our way of life from afar.”

He added: “It isn’t just about ships, planes and tanks. 

“It’s so easy now for Putin to switch the lights off by disrupting energy supplies or disrupting communication by cutting the cables between the US and the UK.

“This is what our adversaries are seeking to do.”

Mr Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss, committed to the three percent defence spending target but Mr Sunak is yet to do so.

The Prime Minister previously described the figure as being “arbitrary” but also said he believed in “investing in our armed forces” during his campaign to be Tory leader over the summer.

Mark Francois, chairman of the European Research Group, said Mr Sunak “did not commit to three percent but said he was determined if he were Prime Minister that he would spend whatever is necessary to keep the country safe”.

The UK currently spends just over 2 percent of GDP each year on defence.

Earlier today, Mr Sunak was urged to boost the UK’s defence spending by Estonia.

The NATO country, which borders Russia, has hosted British troops on rotation for years.

Its foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu, told the BBC it was “vital” all Nato countries spend 3 percent of their GDP on defence.

Mr Reinsalu said NATO countries should “absolutely” spend 3 percent of GDP on defence, adding: “To defend our values – the rules based order – we need also to invest to the weapons.”

Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director-general of Rusi think tank, said there would need to be a 60 percent real terms increase in total defence spending in order to achieve three percent of GDP by 2030.

He told the Telegraph: “That is a very substantial increase.

“For that scale of increase, you’re not only talking about better equipping the current force structure with better ships and aircraft, but also expanding the force structure – which means more regiments, squadrons and people than we currently have.”

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