The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Tuesday 16 March.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a Statement on the Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, which we are publishing today.
The overriding purpose of this review, the most comprehensive since the Cold War, is to make the United Kingdom stronger, safer and more prosperous, while standing up for our values. Our international policy is a vital instrument for fulfilling this Government’s vision of uniting and levelling up across our country, reinforcing the union, and securing Britain’s place as a science superpower and a hub of innovation and research. The review describes how we will bolster our alliances, strengthen our capabilities, find new ways of reaching solutions, and relearn the art of competing against states with opposing values. We will be more dynamic abroad and more focused on delivering for our citizens at home.
I begin with the essential fact that the fortunes of the British people are, almost uniquely, interlinked with events on the far side of the world. With limited natural resources, we have always earned our living as a maritime trading nation. In 2019, the UK sold goods and services overseas worth £690 billion—fully a third of our gross domestic product—sustaining millions of jobs and livelihoods everywhere from Stranraer to St Ives, and making our country the fifth biggest exporter in the world. Between 5 million and 6 million Britons—nearly one in 10 of us—live permanently overseas, including 175,000 in the Gulf and nearly 2 million in Asia and Australasia, so a crisis in any of those regions or in the trade routes connecting them would be a crisis for us from the very beginning.
The truth is that even if we wished it, and of course we do not, the UK could never turn inward or be content with the cramped horizons of a regional foreign policy. For us, there are no far-away countries of which we know little. Global Britain is not a reflection of old obligations, still less a vainglorious gesture, but is a necessity for the safety and prosperity of the British people in the decades ahead.
I am determined that the UK will join our friends to ensure that free societies flourish after the pandemic, sharing the risks and burdens of addressing the world’s toughest problems. The UK’s presidency of the G7 has already produced agreement to explore a global treaty on pandemic preparedness, working through the World Health Organization to enshrine the steps that countries will need to take to prevent another Covid. We will host COP 26 in Glasgow in November and rally as many nations as possible behind the target of net zero by 2050, leading by example since the UK was the first major economy to accept this obligation in law. Britain will remain unswervingly committed to NATO and preserving peace and security in Europe.
From this secure basis, we will seek out friends and partners wherever they can be found, building a coalition for openness and innovation and engaging more deeply in the Indo-Pacific. I have invited the leaders of Australia, South Korea and India to attend the G7 summit in Carbis Bay in June, and I am delighted to announce that I will visit India next month to strengthen our friendship with the world’s biggest democracy. Our approach will place diplomacy first. The UK has applied to become a dialogue partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and we will seek to join the trans-Pacific free trade agreement.
But all our international goals rest upon keeping our people safe at home and deterring those who would do us harm, so we will create a counterterrorism operations centre, bringing together our ability to thwart the designs of terrorists, while also dealing with the actions of hostile states—it is almost exactly three years since the Russian state used a chemical weapon in Salisbury, killing an innocent mother, Dawn Sturgess, and bringing fear to a tranquil city. I can announce that the National Cyber Force, which conducts offensive cyber operations against terrorists, hostile states and criminal gangs, will in future be located in a cyber corridor in the north-west of England.
We will also establish a cross-government situation centre in the Cabinet Office, learning the lessons of the pandemic and improving our use of data to anticipate and respond to future crises.
The first outcome of the integrated review was the Government’s decision to invest an extra £24 billion in defence, allowing the wholesale modernisation of our Armed Forces and taking forward the renewal of our nuclear deterrent. The new money will be focused on mastering the emerging technologies that are transforming warfare, reflecting the premium placed on speed of deployment and technical skill, and my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary will set out the details next week.
Later this year, “HMS Queen Elizabeth” will embark on her maiden deployment, leading a carrier strike group on a 20,000-mile voyage to the Indo-Pacific and back, exercising with Britain’s allies and partners along the way and demonstrating the importance that we attach to freedom of the seas.
By strengthening our Armed Forces, we will extend British influence, while simultaneously creating jobs across the United Kingdom, reinforcing the union and maximising our advantage in science and technology. This Government will invest more in research and development than any of our predecessors because innovation is the key to our success at home and abroad, from speeding our economic recovery, to shaping emerging technologies in accordance with freedom and openness. We will better protect ourselves against threats to our economic security.
Our newly independent trade policy will be an instrument for ensuring that the rules and standards in future trade agreements reflect our values. Our newly independent sanctions policy already allows the UK to act swiftly and robustly wherever necessary, and we were the first European country to sanction the generals in Myanmar after the coup last month.
In all our endeavours, the United States will be our greatest ally and a uniquely close partner in defence, intelligence and security. Britain’s commitment to the security of our European home will remain unconditional and immoveable, incarnated by our leadership of NATO’s deployment in Estonia.
We shall stand up for our values, as well as for our interests, and here I commend the vigilance and dedication of honourable Members from all parties, because the UK, with the wholehearted support of this whole House, has led the international community in expressing our deep concern over China’s mass detention of the Uighur people in Xinjiang province, and in giving nearly 3 million of Hong Kong’s people a route to British citizenship.
There is no question but that China will pose a great challenge for an open society such as ours, but we will also work with China where that is consistent with our values and interests, including in building a stronger and positive economic relationship and in addressing climate change.
The greater our unity at home, the stronger our influence abroad, which will, in turn, open up new markets and create jobs in every corner of the UK, not only maximising opportunities for the British people, but, I hope, inspiring a sense of pride that their country is willing to follow in its finest traditions and stand up for what is right. With the extra investment and new capabilities of the integrated review, the United Kingdom can thrive in an ever more competitive world and fulfil our historic mission as a force for good. I commend this Statement to the House.”