Global Britain ‘must step up’: UK Defence Secretary

Harry Lye 22 October 2020 (Last Updated October 22nd, 2020 14:56)

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has warned that the UK’s adversaries would not wait for the UK to sure up its economy, adding that defence cannot be paused ‘in the face of financial uncertainty’.

Global Britain ‘must step up’: UK Defence Secretary
Ben Wallace MP, Secretary of State for Defence, embarking HMS Queen Elizabeth for the Atlantic Future Forum. Image: MOD/ Crown Copyright,

Wallace comments came as yesterday the UK Treasury announced it was scrapping a three-year spending review, plunging plans for the long-in-the-works Integrated Review into defence, security and foreign policy into doubt.

Speaking at the Atlantic Futures Forum on board Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Wallace said: “A global Britain has no choice but to step up. The world does not stop for our reviews, our adversaries will not halt [for] the absence of our strategies, and the UK’s defence can never be paused in the face of financial uncertainty.”

Defence analysts consider a multi-year spending plan as essential to adequately funding the Integrated Review, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called the ‘deepest’ review of British policy in decades.

Army Technology understands that as a result of the spending review changes, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) will receive an annual budget, making it harder to plan long-term spending.

The publication of the Integrated Review is to go ahead as planned, dispute the changes to spending plans.

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak decided to scrap the comprehensive spending review in the face of economic uncertainty caused by the ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has wiped around 20 years’ worth of growth off of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Wallace added: “We should be signalling to the world that Britain is self-confident, proactive, problem solving, and burden-sharing. Ready to take on the challenges that shaped the opportunities of the 2020s alongside our allies and friends.

“In an imperfect, anxious and tangled world, we must continue championing those shared values of liberty, justice and tolerance that have given billions of souls around the world the chance of a better life. Values that inspired Roosevelt and Churchill to victory all those years ago. As Churchill himself said, the future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope.”

“Now is not the time to blink.”

The House of Commons Defence Committee today published the government’s response to its enquiry into the review with the Committees chair MP Tobias Ellwood calling for the Prime Minister to ensure the MOD receives a multi-year financial settlement.

In its response, the UK Government wrote: “The Comprehensive Spending Review will provide a multiyear financial settlement for Defence to enable the delivery of the policy priorities set out in the Integrated Review. The government position on the Comprehensive Spending Review has not changed.”

The Committee’s report called for strong political leadership during the Integrated Review as well as a thorough assessment of the threat posed by countries such as China, and Russia.

Ellwood said: “The government’s formal response to our Integrated Review inquiry clearly outlines that a Comprehensive Spending Review would provide a multiyear financial settlement for defence, enabling the delivery of the policy priorities set out in the Integrated Review.

“However, in just the last few days, the Treasury has signalled its intentions to scrap this plan. I strongly urge the Chancellor to reconsider as this would lead to delays in key financial decisions, costing the Ministry of Defence billions of pounds. And more widely it would send a poor signal about the government’s commitment to re-establishing a coherent vision of our place in the world at a time of great uncertainty and instability.

Elwood added that that the UK could not afford to let the opportunity presented by the Integrated Review ‘go to waste’.

He said: “I urge to Prime Minister to complete [the] review process in full – even if this means confirming the multiyear financial settlement for defence in isolation from other government departments.

“The first duty of the government is security of the nation. Now is not the time to blink.”