The British government’s post-Brexit defense and foreign policy review, which has been delayed, will be published on March 16. The report promises to reset the UK’s defense and foreign affairs priorities under a new strategy of “Global Britain” with a tilt toward the Indo-Pacific region, aiming to form a democratic counterweight to China.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office announced on the same day that the British government will release two documents in quick succession this month to set the direction for British defense and foreign policy development in the post-Brexit era, according to a report by the Guardian and Reuters on March 5. The British government will first publish a defense and foreign policy assessment report on March 16, followed by a specific defense document on March 22, detailing a five-year plan for the development of the British armed forces.
The report said the “comprehensive assessment report” to be released in the middle of this month will clarify the post-Brexit Britain’s role in geopolitics and reset the UK’s “international priorities”. The report advocates tilting resources to the Indo-Pacific region and enhancing Britain’s military and diplomatic position in South and East Asia. Previously, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the report “the most significant assessment of British foreign, defense, security and development policy since the end of the Cold War.”
According to content obtained in advance by The Guardian, the British government’s forthcoming plans include investing in “China-facing capabilities” to “better understand and respond to the systemic challenges posed by China,” with cybersecurity issues also receiving special attention. The UK will also “pursue deeper engagement” in the Indo-Pacific region and deploy armed forces overseas more regularly, as well as enhance detection, deterrence and response to “national-level threats. It is understood that among the key issues to be resolved are the details of the deployment of the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. The carrier will soon carry out its first overseas deployment after service and will cruise the Indo-Pacific region or will be deployed in the South China Sea, where Beijing has a claim to sovereignty.
It is understood that Johnson will then announce plans to reform the World health Organization and reaffirm that the United States remains Britain’s most important ally. Reflecting on Britain’s departure from the European Union, the report added that the U.K. should be prepared to disagree with Europe “where it is in our interest. The review and launch of the report has been repeatedly delayed by the new crown Epidemic. Recently, it had been hoped that Johnson’s visit to India in January to hold a summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would also serve as a springboard for the launch of a new British strategy.
The report mentioned critics believe that Britain lacks the strength to exert significant influence in the Far East, and although Prime Minister Johnson announced a significant increase in defense budget spending in November last year, the foreign aid budget was cut, while the pressure on the revenue budget in the defense sector still exists. The British government’s defense document, to be released on the 22nd, will also set out plans to modernize the British armed forces. The British defense sector and some defense companies will “scrutinize” these documents to help the government determine the priority development of the British armed forces.
The defense guidance document is expected to confirm a reduction in the size of the British Army from a nominal target of 82,000 to 72,500, although its actual size is 75,300. Older Challenger tanks are likely to be cut by about a third. In response to the Conservative government’s forthcoming announcement of these plans, the opposition Labour Party urged the British government to be realistic. John Healey, Labour’s shadow defense secretary, said the previous strategic review was “over-ambitious, under-funded and ultimately weakened the armed forces’ base.” He stressed that “this review cannot make the same mistakes and avoid the tough decisions.” According to British government sources, they expect the report to be a relatively short visionary document that in effect defines the Johnson administration’s proposed “Global Britain” strategy, with key details to be released later.
Johnson’s visit to India had to be postponed until later in the spring because of the lingering gloom over the outbreak. Previously, the British side had invited Modi and the leaders of South Korea and Australia to attend a meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) leaders in June, which the UK is hosting. Recently, the Prime Minister’s Office also confirmed that Chief of the Defense Staff Nick Carter has been asked to remain in his post until November, while Stephen Lovegrove, permanent secretary at the Defense Ministry, moves on to become Johnson’s national security adviser.
Nick Carter’s successor is expected to come from the heads of the military services. Strong contenders are thought to be Sir Patrick Sanders, head of Strategic Command, and Admiral Tony Radakin, First Sea Lord, head of the Royal Navy.
(Original title: Britain to release diplomatic defense assessment report under new global strategy: improve ability to deal with China)