Tory revolt as review calls for 'deeper trade links' with China

Boris Johnson faces Tory revolt as he unveils major review calling for ‘deeper trade links’ with China despite it being a ‘systemic’ threat to the West – amid warnings Britain is ‘likely’ to be hit with a ‘dirty bomb’ or ANOTHER pandemic by 2030

  • Boris Johnson is unveiling major review of the UK’s defence, security and foreign policy after year of work 
  • There will be a £24billion rise in defence spending including a drive towards space, laser and cyber warfare
  • Nuclear arsenal is set to be expanded for the first time in decades amid fears rivals are building their capacity 
  • Review calls for ‘deeper trade links’ and cooperation with China despite warning it is ‘systemic threat’ to West
  • Army commanders are expected to face cutting 10,000 personnel as capability are shifted from conventional 

Boris Johnson is facing a Tory revolt today as he unveils a major review calling for ‘deeper trade links’ with China – despite admitting it is a ‘systemic’ threat to the West.

Announcing a strategy that could define Britain’s future as a world power, the PM will signal a shift to a ‘more robust position on security and deterrence’ including troops being deployed overseas ‘more often and for longer periods’.

The limit on the number of nuclear warheads is set to be increased from 180 to 260 – although the Integrated Review of security, defence, and foreign policy also heralds a huge shift in emphasis from conventional forces to cutting edge warfare, with investment in space and laser weapons.

In a stance that will provoke outrage from Conservative MPs, the report takes a much softer tone on China than to Russia, saying that although it is an ‘authoritarian state’ it will be ‘an increasingly important partner’.

‘China is an increasingly important partner in tackling global challenges like pandemic preparedness, biodiversity and climate change. We will continue to pursue a positive economic relationship, including deeper trade links and more Chinese investment in the UK,’ the document says.

The position comes despite former MI6 chief Alex Younger warning this morning that China poses a ‘generational threat’ and the idea it will adopt Western values on freedom and democracy is ‘for the birds’.  

Elsewhere, the wide-ranging review says a successful chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) attack is ‘likely’ by 2030.

And worryingly the document says another pandemic is a ‘realistic possibility’ this decade. ‘Infectious disease outbreaks are likely to be more frequent to 2030,’ it says. 

The blueprint will be laid out by Mr Johnson in a statement to the Commons this afternoon, where he will warn that Western values are not guaranteed to come out on top – and restate his commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of Britain’s income on aid once the coronavirus crisis is past.


Boris Johnson (left) will set out a ‘more robust position on security and deterrence’ that could see troops sent overseas more regularly, and for longer periods of time. Pictured right, the review

The IR document highlights the strengths the UK has in adjusting to the challenges of the coming decade


The review is set to highlight the ‘active threat’ of Russia under Vladimir Putin (left). Right, China’s president Xi Jinping

The SitCen is at the heart of the huge defence, security and foreign policy review due to be unveiled by Boris Johnson on March 16

The 100-page review sets out the Government’s view of Britain’s place in the world after Brexit. 

It declares: ‘We will move from defending the status quo within the post-Cold War international system to dynamically shaping the post-Covid order.’

There will be a £24billion rise in spending on defence as the UK moves into the ‘new frontiers’ of space and cyber-warfare. Key points in the review are:

  • Britain is to lift the maximum number of Trident nuclear warheads it can stockpile by more than 40 per cent, from 180 to 260;
  • The terrorist threat to the UK, including Islamist and Northern Ireland-linked extremists, remains ‘all too real’;
  • There is a ‘realistic possibility’ that terror groups could launch a successful attack involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons by 2030;
  • The UK should pursue a ‘positive trade and investment relationship’ with China while protecting national security;
  • Britain’s bases in Kenya, Oman, Singapore, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Germany will be revamped so troops can respond more quickly to threats.

The review also paves the way for cuts to conventional forces, with the RAF set to lose 24 Typhoon jets and its 14 Super Hercules transport planes.

The Navy is thought to be facing the loss of two submarine-hunting frigates, HMS Montrose and HMS Monmouth, as well as its 13 minehunters, which are due to be replaced by drones.

And Army commanders are expected to have to say goodbye to 10,000 personnel, four infantry battalions, 77 tanks and 760 Warrior fighting vehicles. 

The wide-ranging document sets out an ambition to be at the forefront of a green industrial revolution

The HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group will be deployed to the Indo-Pacific region as sources say ministers believe it is becoming the ‘geopolitical centre of the world’

The review – billed as the most radical reassessment of Britain’s place in the world since the end of the Cold War – has taken a year to draw up.

It backs the creation of a new state-of-the-art counter-terrorism operations centre to streamline the response of police and the intelligence agencies in the event of an attack.

The will also be a new ‘situation centre’ in the Cabinet Office similar to the White House situation room where Barack Obama was able to watch the US special forces operation to kill Osama bin Laden in real time.

The 100-page document – entitled Global Britain in a Competitive Age – argues the increase in nuclear warheads cap is ‘in recognition of the evolving security environment’ and the ‘developing range of technological and doctrinal threats’.

‘A minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent, assigned to the defence of Nato, remains essential in order to guarantee our security and that of our allies,’ it says.

The report insists the UK will ‘not hesitate’ to defend its values and will increase the protection of critical infrastructure, such as the national grid, transport and water supplies.

Defence debt ‘could wipe out £16billion boost for budget’

Billions of pounds promised for military equipment could be lost in a ‘funding black hole’.

The warning by MPs comes as Boris Johnson launches a long-awaited review of security, defence and foreign policy.

The Prime Minister has pledged £16.5billion for cyber warfare, artificial intelligence, unmanned aircraft and ‘directed-energy’ weapons. 

But the Commons Public Accounts Committee said much of this money will be needed to pay for kit already ordered by the Ministry of Defence. 

It estimates top brass have run up debts of up to £17.4billion on aircraft, ships and weapons.

Meg Hillier, the Labour chairman of the committee, said this could mean the £16.5billion is ‘swallowed whole’.

The MoD said it had ‘secured a substantial settlement over four years in order to restore financial sustainability’. 

However in a section that will alarm Tory hawks on China it also argues that the UK will need to pursue a positive economic relationship including ‘deeper trade links and more Chinese investment’.

The shift will be underlined by the deployment of the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group to the region on its maiden operational mission later this year.

‘China’s growing international stature is by far the most significant geopolitical factor in the world today, with major implications for British values and interests and for the structure and shape of the international order,’ the review said.

‘The fact that China is an authoritarian state, with different values to ours, presents challenges for the UK and our allies. 

‘China will contribute more to global growth than any other country in the next decade with benefits to the global economy. China and the UK both benefit from bilateral trade and investment, but China also presents the biggest state-based threat to the UK’s economic security.

‘We will require a robust diplomatic framework for this relationship that allows us to manage disagreements, defend our values and preserve space for cooperation where our interests align.

‘China is an increasingly important partner in tackling global challenges like pandemic preparedness, biodiversity and climate change. We will continue to pursue a positive economic relationship, including deeper trade links and more Chinese investment in the UK. 

‘At the same time, we will increase protection of our CNI, institutions and sensitive technology, and strengthen the resilience of our critical supply chains, so that we can engage with confidence. We will not hesitate to stand up for our values and our interests where they are threatened, or when China acts in breach of existing agreements. 

‘The UK has responded to China’s actions in Hong Kong by creating a new immigration route for British Nationals (Overseas) and their eligible family members and dependents, and to China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang through measures to ensure that British organisations are neither complicit in nor profiting from them.’ 

Sir Alex Younger said this morning that there will continue to be an ‘ideological divergence’ between the UK and China.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There’s no doubt that China represents the generational threat, and the reason for that is that the idea that China will become more like us as it gets richer, or as its economy matured, is clearly for the birds.

‘That’s not going to happen. On the contrary I expect China’s Communist Party to double down on its ideology in the future.

‘There’s going to be an ideological divergence between us in the future, that’s going to generate rivalry and reduce trust.’

Asked if China will become the world’s biggest power, he added: ‘There’s no doubt that China feels advantage at the moment and the pandemic has closed the gap between us in some important ways.

‘The language China understands is strength and we need to generate that strength through technological innovations and stewarding our alliances.’

Mr Johnson will make a personal commitment to to restore foreign aid spending to 0.7 per cent of national income ‘when the fiscal situation allows’ following furious criticism of cuts to support for Yemen and other countries.

The premier is expected to argue that while Nato remains the bedrock of UK security in the Euro-Atlantic region, the country can no longer rely on an ‘increasingly outdated international’ to protect its interests.

At a time when some countries are seeking to undermine the open and liberal international order which emerged following the Cold War, he is expected to say the UK needs to use ‘all the tools at our disposal’ to ensure a world where democracies can still flourish.

Raab says nuclear weapons still ‘ultimate insurance policy’ 

Dominic Raab has has defended plans to lift the cap on the UK’s stockpile of nuclear warheads, claiming it represents the ‘ultimate insurance policy’ against threats from hostile states.

The Foreign Secretary said it was important to maintain a ‘minimum credible level of deterrent’.

The limit on warheads is being lifted from 180 to 260, ending three decades of gradual disarmament.

Asked why the Government would want to increase the amount, the Foreign Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Because over time as the circumstances change and the threats change, we need to maintain a minimum credible level of deterrent.

‘Why? Because it is the ultimate guarantee, the ultimate insurance policy against the worst threat from hostile states.’ 

In his foreword to the IR, Mr Johnson said Brexit marked a ‘new chapter in our history’ and the UK was now ‘open to the world, free to tread our own path’.

Mr Johnson said: ‘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.’

He is set to tell MPs: ‘I am profoundly optimistic about the UK’s place in the world and our ability to seize the opportunities ahead.

‘The ingenuity of our citizens and the strength of our Union will combine with our international partnerships, modernised armed forces and a new green agenda, enabling us to look forward with confidence as we shape the world of the future.’

The publication comes after the Prime Minister announced in November a £16.5billion increase in defence spending over the next four years focusing on the future battlefields of space and cyber.

However, military chiefs have made clear the investment in new technologies will mean cuts to some ‘industrial age’ capabilities to be set out in further paper by the Ministry of Defence next week .

The Army is expected to be the biggest loser with troop numbers expected to be slashed by more than 10,000, while its fleet of Challenger 2 main battle tanks is expected to be reduced by a third and the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle retired altogether.

The papers lay out a pledge to protect Gibraltar and the Falklands. 

Armed Forces will ‘deter and challenge incursions in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters’ and ‘maintain a permanent presence in the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island and the British Indian Ocean Territory’, the documents say.

The decision to commit to reinstating Britain’s controversial foreign aid target comes just months after it was cut. 

Criticised for waste, it was reduced to 0.5 per cent in Rishi Sunak’s spending review last year.

The Daily Mail revealed at the weekend that ministers were backtracking on a commitment to change the law, which currently requires 0.7 per cent to be spent.

Instead, they are considering relying on a loophole which allows for a lower level of spending when finances are tight.

The reduction in the target will save about £4billion, making the budget £10billion.

Mr Johnson’s decision to publicly recommit to the target today suggests the cut is likely to be very short term.

The Integrated Review, entitled Global Britain in a Competitive Age, will also include the construction of a White House-style situation room based in the Cabinet Office and a new Counter-Terrorism Operations Centre to improve the authorities’ ability to respond to incidents.

The Navy is said to be facing the loss of two submarine-hunting frigates, HMS Montrose and HMS Monmouth, as well as its 13 minehunters, which are due to be replaced by drones

In the Commons later, Mr Johnson is expected to say the UK needs to use ‘all the tools at our disposal’ to ensure a world where democracies can still flourish at a time when some countries are seeking to undermine the open and liberal international order.

He will tell MPs: ‘I am profoundly optimistic about the UK’s place in the world.’

However, military chiefs have made clear the investment in new technologies will mean cuts to ‘industrial age’ capabilities.

This has alarmed some MPs, including Tobias Ellwood, Conservative chairman of the defence committee. 

He told the Commons yesterday that the country was about to witness a ‘shocking reduction’ in its conventional hard power in favour of new ‘niche capabilities’.

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