What’s the plan for ‘Global Britain’? – BBC Newsnight

we are a protagonist a global britain running a truly global foreign policy global britain is not a reflection of old obligations still lesser vainglorious gesture but a necessity for the safety and prosperity of the british people in the decades ahead its aim is to make the nation stronger and wealthier a review that's been on a long and winding journey more than four years in the making buffeted by brexit the pandemic and the election of a new u.s president but now we have it when the term global britain first came about after brexit it was never defined and it's important in the post-brexit world for the uk to define where it's going and it's important in the post-pandemic world for the uk to define where it's going every government is going to be wrestling with this same question because we're all in a very different position than we were a year a year and a half ago so nuclear weapons which the government said today it may increase are one token of power but in truth they can't make many more of those quickly due to problems at older marston the standout thing in this review is its commitment to invest in everything from cyber space to actual space artificial intelligence and robotics it promises an 80 billion pound defense equipment spend over the next four years it's about more than that using the military budget as a tool of political and industrial policy you're looking at space we're looking at cyber obviously we're looking also at quantum technologies and we're looking at biotech and these are really interesting expensive but important technologies going forward they're important for defense but they're also important for our general way of living as well the planned voyage east of sewers this year by the queen elizabeth carrier group is part of the tilt towards india and the pacific there are trade reasons for this and strengthening alliances with india japan and others if there's a strategic rationale it's about containing china but today's paper also talks about our desire to trade and cooperate with them we don't yet know how china's going to evolve as a world power in terms of the rules and the norms they're quite clearly trying to change things at things like the standards of the internet the significance of human rights but they are also a really important partner in things like climate change and i think that handling china and british policy to china is going to be extremely difficult going forward foreign aid can be one way of contesting others influence and advancing british interests but the government cut the aid budget this year made many unhappy today it pledged to restore it when the fiscal situation allows i think what i need to know is that he when he will do it and i need to know that this will happen as soon as is possible because there are a lot of people out there who are suffering in the world as a result of this cut the pm today insisted that the uk commitment to european security was rock solid but britain's forces are too small to be scattered worldwide a carrier group can't be in two places at once and the question remains whether the americans wouldn't rather we maintain mass and focus in europe i must have heard when i was in my three and a half years in washington dozens of times senior military figures say your 80 000 standing army is too small i think they think these basic issues about the size of the army uh and you know you basic uk capabilities are ultimately more important than sending uh ships you know once a year into the uh into the pacific so that's the key for me for the future of the uk us defense relationship and that concern about the size of the army speaks to choices cutting it well below 100 000 closer to 70 000 in order to invest in those new technologies we won't learn about those cuts until a defence paper appears next week but the opposition is worried the prime minister has spoken of an era of retreat he's right in the last decade of conservative government defense spending and pay for the armed forces both fell in real terms new projects like the tempest fighter for the air force will require the cutting of existing squadrons and the army's armored brigades are also expected to take a blow next week as so often the defense budget is very taught there are just too many projects to be financed and that will consume a lot of this rise in defense spending so actual cuts to jets or numbers of troops will only yield a limited amount of money to invest in those sunrise technologies like ai or cyber which may produce only intangible benefits you can't always see the results of these investments especially when if say there's a cyber offensive attack uh it may not be in the public realm at all these investments will be uh increasing over the years going ahead because smaller countries and non-state actors can also play a role in this space so making these choices they're they're not easy choices to make for governments so there are dilemmas on the horizon and we'll start to learn about those next week of cuts to ships armor and planes taken to finance this quest for security and national advantage in a turbulent uncertain world mark urban with that report well one of the crucial elements to global britain after brexit is of course our ability to sign our own trade deals today there was an interesting insight perhaps inadvertently into the government's thinking in this area we're joined by our political editor nick what nick what did we hear well as you say emily the brexiteers say that the uk out of the eu can now take to the seas on its own once again and sign those trade deals around the world mark was talking about that indo-pacific tilt that means a new focus on china and interestingly boris johnson took issue with conservative backbenchers when he said it's wrong to be talking about a new cold war with china that didn't go down well with some of those back benches they've been rebelling against the trade bill because they want to give courts a much greater say oversight over trade deals because they're deeply concerned about beijing's treatment of the uyghurs in xinjiang province now as that review was published the huff post uh released a recording of a meeting uh that dominic rob the foreign secretary held with his officials and he said look we should be prepared to sign trade deals with countries that don't meet the standards of the european convention on human rights this is what he had to say so i squarely believe we ought to be trading uh liberally around the world if we it to countries with echr level standards of human rights we're not going to do many trade deals with the growth markets of the future now the foreign office said that that was a distorted account of the meeting because the foreign secretary had said in that meeting that he could think of some countries who on their treatment of human rights would as he said put themselves beyond the pale but what's interesting about all of this is that yes um the uk the upside for brexit as they say is the uk can sign its own trade deals but now the uk has to justify them on their own terms they can't hide behind this was an eu collective decision and on the eu's uh approach to trade i think some in the government who say look let's not be naive about the eu germany has enormous trade with china and just think of those french arms sales they go far and wide nick thanks very much indeed and so to the government earlier i asked the foreign office minister james cleverley whether the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that britain signed decades ago mattered anymore well the nuclear non-proliferation treaty of course matters and we should remember that the independent nuclear deterrent is and has been the cornerstone of our national defense and indeed our collective nato defense for decades and uh in a world that is less predictable and more dangerous it's absolutely right that we maintain a credible independent nuclear deterrent and that's what this is about beatrice finn from the campaign against disarmament nuclear disarmament says we're actually by doing this contributing to an insecure and unstable world that it's a 40 increase in the direction no other country has done since the height of the cold war it goes against international law the campaign for nuclear disarmament are hardly ever i suspect going to be in favor of our independent nuclear deterrent but as i say it has been the cornerstone of our uh collective defense for decades has contributed to uh to peace if you're raising your cap you can no longer say that britain is in favor of nuclear disarmament we are absolutely in favor of nuclear disarmament but what i've always said is that unilateralism which has been proposed by cnd and others uh is not the way to do this the biggest threat of the last year was the pandemic and the answer as we quickly saw was investment in our nhs and its incredible staff what would you say to people who simply don't understand why nurses are getting a one percent pay rise so that you can lift the cap on the number of nuclear warheads the nhs has received a very significant increase increases uh in in funding we're recruiting uh more doctors we're recruiting more nurses that pay rise is not just for nurses of course it's for all nhs staff and i think we should be honest um about that and of course we absolutely recognize the the the heroic efforts of the of the people uh in the nhs but also um with regard to our uh fighting of the pandemic also to the biomedical sciences and and that combination of a fantastic national health service and a really innovative science base which we're going to be investing more through the integrated review is what has helped us develop this vaccine roll out which is which is keeping people safe here in the uk and around the world parliamentary law said that we would commit to 0.7 percent of foreign aid spending on gni and you have clearly made a point of of our place on the international stage now many people will understand that in a pandemic things change but you have now i understand resolve to restore it when will that be well we can't say for sure because we don't know how quickly we'll be able to recover from the economic impact of this completely unprecedented uh disease that has swept across the globe i'm i'm very proud i think the whole nation should be very proud of the development work this country has done and even though that we have been affected by this pandemic we should be proud of the fact the uk is still in both percentage terms and absolute terms one of the most generous aid donating countries in the world and we're still going to be a force for good in the world your conservative colleague pauline latham said we're going to be balancing the books on the back of the poor we are devastating the amount of money that's going to yemen and sudan her words so reassure her will it be next year that you go back to 0.7 well this year we've been we've committed to spend 10 billion pounds i'm just asking when you'll get back to the law to the parliamentary law which was point seven percent will it be next year i can't say for sure because we don't know the duration of the economic impact of this disease but what i i also remind you is that we are still one of the most generous aid donating countries in the world and and that's something that we should be very proud of let me briefly ask you about this audio that has surfaced on the huff post website dominic rob your boss recording of a q a with foreign office staff and he says these words i squarely believe we ought to be trading liberally around the world if we restrict it to countries with ec hr level standards of human rights we're not going to do many trade deals with growth markets of the future is that government policy i wasn't on that staff meeting and i'm not comfortable making comment on uh on on something that i haven't heard so i don't know the context of the question i don't know what he said immediately prior to that immediately after that and so without full of context i'm i'm not at all comfortable speculating uh about that but as i say i'm sorry but i wasn't on that particular staff meeting when it comes to china when it comes to saudi arabia would you say that it doesn't matter if these countries are below the echr level of human rights well these the echr is is something to which most of the world of course uh is uh is is is not part so um getting drawn into that as uh as the sole uh parameter uh i i i think is it's it's it's a it's a it's a question that doesn't really relate uh to reality because of course you know the european convention on human rights is a purely european thing and uh and and you know we have trade relationships all around the world as i say i i don't want to comment on on that particular partial quote it would be unfair and inappropriate for me to speculate around that james cleverley thank you very much thank you well there's a lot to take on joining us now rory stewart former conservative international development secretary michelle florney the former under secretary of defense for policy under president obama and peter francopan professor of global history at oxford university and he gave evidence to the review itself welcome to all of you there's so much to look at here whether it's international aid um nuclear armament china trade or or our place in the world i guess i think i'm going to start with michelle if i can what do you think from outside president biden will read into this review that doesn't focus on europe um that that pivots away to asia does that matter to america is it helpful or hindrance i actually think there's a lot in the report of the review that um the bad administration will welcome the tilt towards the end of pacific as they really see china the rise of china as a particular challenge i think the emphasis on building up cyber capability uh space capability investing in cutting-edge defense technologies that will better prepare us to deter and prevent conflict in the future and the doubling down on nato i think those will all be welcome themes in washington both in the administration and on capitol hill rory do you think these priorities are right this is uh i i think that it's sad that we seem to be moving away so much from people and from the middle east and africa so i agree with what michelle said there are things that washington will welcome but washington may not be focusing so much on the small print at the moment the uk army is barely got 70 000 people it can barely hold a few thousand in the field and if the us really asked itself where britain's advantage lay as a partner i think they would probably expect the uk to have the capacity to deploy people onto the ground and that includes diplomats that includes development workers in africa and the middle east and i question whether it really makes sense for the us to have the uk just trying to mirror in a smaller way the kind of activities it's doing in the indo-pacific region rather than focusing on where britain has a lot of historical ties and a lot of expertise so i i from my point of view i think this is it's a clear choice it's not the choice i would have made i would have focused on keeping the army i would have left the us to focus on china i think china is rapidly growing into a situation which is very difficult for the uk to play much for a role except as a minor partner supporting the us in and focus on where we can really make a difference closer to him peter i'm going to bring you in a moment but will you just respond to that michelle it echoes what kim derek former ambassador said 80 000 stanley army is frankly too small and the basic capabilities are more important to the us you know i do think a lot of the devil will be in the details which we don't know yet i understand that some of those details on what where the risk will be taken where the cuts will be made in defense are coming you know next week um but i think particularly important to the united states will be the sas and special operations forces that the uk provides those tend to be our closest counterterrorism partners in places like the middle east and in africa and so that will be very important also understanding what will britain sustain as its commitments to nato still have to worry about deterring russia okay of course peter let me ask you how significant a moment in our history this feels does it reflect what britain is like and what britain is capable of well i i don't read this as a report that's about the us or about china i mean in fact it's a pretty stark wake up call we spent the last four or five six years only really thinking about our relationship with europe and to some extent with the united states and although china is a big part in the subheadings in this report really what this is telling us is what a complicated and difficult world we're facing so the point of the integrated review was to try to find a way of producing global strategy that incorporates diplomatic military defense and the kinds of very serious problems that we face pathogens is one of those and the report warns that those are going to become more likely so to extreme weather events and climate change um also russia which hasn't been mentioned and the proliferation of biological agents nuclear nuclear warheads and so on is something which is clearly of great concern to the security of this country coupled with cyber and new tech so actually what this is saying is that we need to find a different way of doing business in the world we can't just have limbs going out and saying one thing to one person and one to another um there needs to be some coordination so that's why dominick rob's statement tonight is so unhelpful because britain is getting a reputation of saying one thing and doing another so the cut putting on top differed putting on top those cuts putting on top pulling back on the vso pulling back in other parts of the world so it's all very well producing a report saying we're going to be more engaged and help shape the international rules-based order it's something else to actually go about doing it properly so just on the dominic raab comments would your sense be admit that's how trade works that's how the world works and we don't always demand the highest standards in human rights from those we trade with or would your response be to say you you have to you have to stop dealing with regimes like that well i also wasn't in a meeting that james cleverley didn't go to yeah but so i i'm only basing on what what the comments i've heard on on your report um but it's extremely poorly timed um when we're producing reports saying we're going to build alliances with like-minded countries we're going to safeguard rules we're going to protect human rights and we're going to really stand up for liberal democracy one of the really important parts of this report says that it's just not good enough anymore to be defending the status quo we've got to do better at explaining what the advantages and benefits are of democracy which is in retreat around the world you know authoritarian regimes are doing lots of things really quite well and we've got to work out how to how to respond to those but also how to make sure that we're delivering um outcomes for our citizens and for people who live here that help keep the country moving so i think that it's a real problem to be producing a report like this and then find the foreign secretary saying that we should be putting money first rather than our values rory you were nodding to that and uh well china and russia do we we know what we want to do do we know how to do it that's that's always the fundamental problem uh which is the question of cam so hidden in this report is the fact that in 2005 the british economy was larger than the chinese economy the chinese economy is now seven times larger than the british economy maybe 15 times larger within the next few years so the big question at the heart of this report is what can we do and one of the things that worries me when we start talking about investing in more nuclear weapons is is this a good use of limited resources and again where i think britain's strength is is in people people who speak other people's languages well in a really good development programs in playing a role in the united nations and that involves getting involved with many tricky issues closer to home in the middle east and africa and i think we're being tempted by an industrial strategy that's that's the final thing i'd say that a lot of this reflects dominic cummings his basic desire which is to brand spending as a way of investing and leveling up and developing new technologies in britain but it doesn't reflect what i think of the real interests of uk foreign policy which is less high technology and more about people michelle come to back to you in a second but peter can you respond to that does it matter if this is an industrial strategy rather than a a foreign policy strategy well it's about skills we're always exactly right it's about investing in people it means sending ministers to go and visit countries that they've spent no no time going to for the last decade it's not just because of brexit our footprint of what it is that our politicians do has shrunk dramatically too because of the bloodlighting that's gone on westminster so we need to have ministers on planes going to visit opposite numbers to discuss policy i mean for what it's worth to put the kind of skills gap in context last year there were more people at cambridge studying anglo-saxon north and celtic than they were studying chinese so if you want to be understanding the world you've got to be trying to work out what's going on and that that means having soft skills hard skills and making making the best of the competitive advantages we do have in this country like our university system like the education like the culture and working out how to use those in a way that isn't just strategic but is in a way that gets britain to remain safe strong and secure and open michelle does the the international aid target um worry you we committed to point seven we know that for pandemic reasons that's being rolled back i tried to get an answer on when that would be restored and it wasn't clear um today whether it would be in the next year in the next two years or in the next decade does that matter to our partners it does matter and i think that is the one area where there may be some disappointment expressed uh in the us because development assistance is so crucial right now in terms of coming out of the pandemic helping the poorest nations uh come through this alongside us but also more broadly in terms of living our values and and making sure we invest in the future so i do think that's a point of weakness and the us i'm sure we'll be very interested in that answer you were trying to get about when will this be corrected going forward we'll keep trying thank you all very much indeed thanks for joining us this evening

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