China 'threat' and nuclear stockpiling: Boris Johnson reveals a vision for ‘match-fit’ Britain in a post-Brexit world
Boris Johnson has revealed his vision for Britain becoming “match-fit” for its post-Brexit future by using its agility, soft power and security expertise to thrive in the decade to come.
The Prime Minister has published the results of a months-long rethink of the Government’s defence, security and foreign policy outlook, called the Integrated Review.
The 114-page document, titled “Global Britain in a competitive age”, sets out what role Mr Johnson sees the country playing to 2030 and what needs to change to maximise success.
Mr Johnson writes in a foreword that in the years ahead “agility and speed of action will enable us to deliver for our citizens, enhancing our prosperity and security”.
He touts Britain’s “unique soft power that spans the globe”, especially in the arts and sciences, and stresses the country’s strength comes through the Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
But he also warns the terrorist threat to the UK remains “all too real”, flagging the dangers posed by extremists in Northern Ireland and jihadists plotting attacks.
Mr Johnson writes: “Few nations are better placed to navigate the challenges ahead, but we must be willing to change our approach and adapt to the new world emerging around us.
“Open and democratic societies like the UK must demonstrate they are match-fit for a more competitive world.”
Aid promise renewed
The UK Government has recommitted to spending 0.7 per cent of annual national income on overseas aid after a fierce backlash from Conservatives.
The target had been championed and written into law by the former Tory prime minister David Cameron but has been abandoned by the Johnson government during the pandemic.
The Integrated Review reads: “The UK will remain a world leader in international development and we will return to our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on development when the fiscal situation allows.”
China and Russia threat
China is “the biggest state-based threat to the UK’s economic security”, the document states as it gives a detailed breakdown of the UK Government’s views on different countries.
The country is called a “systemic competitor”, with its “increasing power and international assertiveness likely to be the most significant geopolitical factor of the 2020s”.
Russia is dubbed “the most acute direct threat to the UK”, with the document saying Britain should “actively deter and defend” against the “full spectrum of threats” Moscow poses.
America “will remain our most important bilateral relationship”, the document states, seen as “essential” to Nato and the intelligence sharing group Five Eyes.
Dirty bomb fears
It is “likely” a successful terror attack involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear material will be launched by 2030, the Integrated Review warns.
The document says “terrorism will remain a major threat over the coming decade” and warns that a new diverse range of materials used and political causes championed will emerge.
“In the UK, the main sources of terrorist threat are from Islamist and Northern Ireland-related terrorism, and far-right, far-left, anarchist and single-issue terrorism,” the document states.
Another line reads: “There is a realistic possibility that state sponsorship of terrorism and the use of proxies will increase. It is likely that a terrorist group will launch a successful CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear] attack by 2030.”
A new 'Counter Terrorism Operations Centre', or CTOC for short, will be created in an undisclosed location in London, with police officers, intelligence agents and legal experts working together to thwart attacks.
A new ‘Situation Centre’ will be set up in the Cabinet Office in an attempt to make data more accessible to Government ministers, a learning from the Covid-19 response.
The review into the radicalisation referral programme Prevent continues, while improvements to UK border security are due by 2025, in part to make it harder for terrorists to enter Britain.
There is also a promise to step up attempts to “stop states from using research relationships with UK academia to steal intellectual property” which could help them make chemical weapons.
The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, one of the two largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy, will head to the Indo-Pacific later this year.
The Government has pledged to exceed the Nato spending commitment to devote two per cent of national wealth each year to defence.
Troop targets are expected to be cut by thousands when the Defence Command Paper, which was drawn up in tandem with yesterday’s document, is published on Monday.
Mr Johnson failed to guarantee troop numbers will be spared cuts when pressed in the House of Commons yesterday over whether a 10,000 soldiers reduction could be coming.
The Minister of Defence will get £6.6 billion for R&D over the next four years in areas such as laser weapons and hypersonic missiles to prepare for the wars of the future.
More investment in UK military bases in Oman, Singapore and Kenya is coming, while Mr Johnson recommitted to protecting Gibraltar and the Falklands with the military if needed.
Another Covid-style pandemic
The world could see another pandemic in the coming decade, the Integrated Review warns, despite the lessons learned from the Covid-19 outbreak over the last year.
“Another novel pandemic remains a realistic possibility,” reads one line in a section about the threats to global health in the coming years.
There is also a warning about the danger of antimicrobial resistance, with deaths currently forecast to rise from 700,000 a year today to 20 million a year by 2050.
“Infectious disease outbreaks are likely to be more frequent to 2030,” the document warns.
Nuclear stockpile increase
The maximum number of nuclear warheads Britain will stockpile is to increase, reversing a decades long drive to cut the country’s nuclear capabilities.
The stockpile had been due to drop to no more than 180 warheads by the mid-2020s but will now be set at no more than 260 warheads.
The Integrated Review said the change was “in recognition of the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threat”.
It comes as a modernisation drive in the Armed Forces sees the target for troop numbers slashed by thousands and some prominent “legacy” parts of the military cut back.
Soft power drive
The influence of the BBC, the Premier League and Wimbledon are all touted as the Integrated Review plays up the “soft power” Britain has overseas.
The BBC is called “the most trusted broadcaster worldwide” in the document, which also notes the BBC World Service reaches 468million people every week in 42 different languages.
Premier League matches are broadcast to 188 countries worldwide, the document says, while the Wimbledon tennis tournament draws in more than half a million visitors each year.
The UK’s soft power “is central to our international identity as an open, trustworthy and innovative country”, according to the Integrated Review.
Space exploration (from Scotland)
British satellites will be able to be launched into space from Scotland by next year, the Integrated Review confirms.
“We will make the UK a meaningful actor in space, with an integrated space strategy which brings together military and civil space policy for the first time,” it reads.
The Government plans to lean partly on the commercial sector for its space exploration, matching similar private-public collaborations that have been seen in America.
By 2030, it is hoped the UK will “have the ability to monitor, protect and defend our interests in and through space”, both through its own capabilities and partnerships with allies.
Climate change – the No 1 international priority
Tackling climate change and biodiversity loss is named as the UK’s “number one international priority” over the coming decade.
The phrase ‘climate change’ appears more than 50 times in the document, in a reflection of how important a challenge it is considered to be by the Government.
The document repeats the Johnson Government’s determination to make Britain net zero on carbon emissions by 2050.
It says global biodiversity is in “unprecedented decline”, noting 75 per cent of the world’s land surface and 66 per cent of the ocean has been "significantly altered and degraded" by human activity.