The UK is spending TWO-THIRDS MORE of its GDP on defence than the EU average

Graham Charles Lear
3 min readAug 29, 2021

Coat of arms,
EU Military Staff

An analysis of Friday’s EU defence numbers show how reliant the EU has been on the UK

The EU countries’ latest defence spending figures were published by Brussels on Friday — and they do not look good for the EU and its military ambitions.

The EU reveals its shortfalls in defence spending

1. EU defence spending in 2019 as % of GDP

  • EU27 average: 1.2%
  • United Kingdom: 2.0% — two-thirds more than the EU average
  • EU’s largest economy (Germany): 1.1%

2. In pure money terms, the UK was by far the EU’s biggest spender on defence in 2019

  • The United Kingdom spent €46.9 bn on defence, according to the EU. This was:-
  • 31% more than France
  • 43% more than Germany
  • More than double Italy’s spending
  • Four times that of the Netherlands and Spain

Is it any wonder that the UK provided more military power in Afghanistan than any other EU country?

Military power comes at a cost. The United Kingdom’s contribution to allied forces in Afghanistan was significant. This could not have been achieved without the UK committing more of its GDP to defence than any other EU country over the last 20 years.

The cost to the United Kingdom should not only be counted in money terms, as shown in my last article the UK military suffered 53 % more casualties in the 20-year war https://graham100200.medium.com/which-eu-country-now-out-of-the-eu-carried-the-military-burden-in-afghanistan-3fe429b94a53

Where do Friday’s EU defence spending figures leave their ambitions to be a global military power?

In the last 10 years alone, according to the latest EU figures for 2010–2019, military spending amongst the EU27 as a proportion of GDP has actually fallen.

  • EU27 in 2010: 1.3% of total GDP
  • EU27 in 2019: 1.2% of total GDP

[Note: These figures exclude the UK, which was a member for all this period.]

Biden or the EU Commission — which is worse?

I share many views concerning the handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan by the current US administration of President Biden. Some of the news that has been coming out in recent days almost defies belief.

That said, the article above is not about that. The analysis of the EU’s latest figures released on Friday shows unequivocally that whilst the US Commander-in-Chief seems chiefly not to be in command of the situation, at least he has military forces at his disposal whilst most EU countries do not.

Had Afghanistan been left to the EU Commission, I hate to think how much worse things could have been.

Over the years of me writing articles about the EU I have remarked on a regular basis how the less favourable reports from Brussels are often released on a Friday afternoon when many journalists have departed for the weekend. Yet again this has happened (on 27 Aug 2021) with the EU’s report on how little its member countries have been spending on defence.

The report was issued by the EU’s official statistics agency and not a word has been uttered by the normally loquacious and self-promoting EU Commission, the same self-promoting EU Commission who flew all smiles to Spain to have a photoshoot to celebrate the homecoming of 500 EU embassy workers flown home by Germany. I am pleased to put the EU’s omission right, by publishing the above summary for my readers.

[ Sources: EU Commission ]

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Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.