Johnson launches ‘deepest foreign policy review since Cold War’

Boris Johnson has launched what is billed as the deepest review of Britain’s foreign and security policy since the Cold War, with a warning that as the world changes “we must move with it”.

The cross-Whitehall review will cover all elements of foreign, defence, security and international development policy, as the Government seeks to redefine its long-term strategic aims and objectives.

Downing Street said it would go beyond the parameters of a traditional strategic defence and security review (SDSR) by looking at the “totality of opportunities and challenges” the UK faces.

It will consider how the whole of government can be “structured, equipped and mobilised” in order to meet them.

Boris Johnson
The review will report directly to Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Unlike the 2015 review, a No 10 source said it will not be “cost neutral”, meaning further spending commitments are not ruled out.

Under the remit set out by the Prime Minister it will:

– Define the Government’s ambition for the UK’s role in the world and long-term strategic objectives for national security and foreign policy;

– Consider how Britain can work more effectively with allies as a “problem-solving and burden-sharing” nation;

– Determine the capabilities needed over the next decade to meet the country’s objectives and address the risk it faces;

– Identify the reforms needed to government systems and structures to achieve these ends.

Among the issues to be considered by the review – first announced in the Queen’s Speech in December – will be the procurement processes of the armed forces and other security services.

The Prime Minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings has been a noted critic of what he considers to be the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) record of “squandering” billions on lavish equipment programmes.

The review will also look to build on the work of the review currently under way by former Scotland Yard deputy commissioner Sir Craig Mackey into efforts to tackle serious and organised crime.

The Government has made clear that it will maintain the Nato target of committing 2% of GDP to defence as well as continuing to commit 0.7% of national income to international development.

However there is speculation that the Department for International Development (DfID) could disappear as an independent department, being subsumed into the Foreign Office.

The review will be headed by a senior civil servant reporting directly to Mr Johnson.

It will be supported by a cross-Whitehall team in the Cabinet Office and a small team in No 10 made up of experts from inside and outside the Civil Service.

The Foreign Office, Home Office, MoD, DfID, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Treasury will all contribute.

However final decisions will be taken by the National Security Council chaired by the Prime Minister.

It will run parallel to the Comprehensive Spending Review, and is expected to deliver its main conclusions alongside it in the autumn.

Mr Johnson said: “The UK’s institutions, expertise, leadership and values are renowned around the world.

“But we cannot rest on our laurels. We must do more to adapt. We will be judged by how we respond to the opportunities ahead.

“As the world changes we must move with it – harnessing new technologies and ways of thinking to ensure British foreign policy is rooted firmly in our national interests, now and in the decades ahead.”

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