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“The more reliant we are on others, the less resilient we are as a nation”

18 December 2022

Today the Foreign Affairs Committee publishes its report “Refreshing our approach? Updating the Integrated Review”.

UK-China relations

The Committee argues that China poses “a significant threat to the UK on many different levels” and says that it would support changing China’s designation from “systemic competitor” to “threat” if it were accompanied by carefully calibrated and proportionate policy change rather than empty rhetoric.

The report urges the Government to be firmer and more explicit in articulating the UK's security interests when it comes to China. The report says that it in the UK’s national interest to maintain engagement with China, given our economic dependence. The Committee calls for the Government’s long-term goal to be fostering greater resilience and economic diversification so that the UK has more freedom to choose its actions in response to any aggression or human rights abuses by China.

Increased resilience

The report calls for enhancing the resilience of the UK to be central to the update. The Committee recommends that the forthcoming national resilience strategy includes the creation of a national resilience lead and improved cross-Government co-ordination.

UK-Europe relations

The report finds that the Integrated Review was notably lacking in detail on the UK’s relationship with Europe. Following Russia’s renewed illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Committee calls for the updated Integrated Review to clarify the nature of the UK's security relationship with key European partners and the EU.

The report also calls for the Government to clarify how it expects the UK to contribute to European security while maintaining the Indo-Pacific tilt, particularly at a time of constrained resources.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns MP, said:

“The UK’s economic dependence on China poses a significant and delicate challenge to the UK’s foreign policy. The more reliant we are on others, the less resilient we are as a nation. The Government must tread a fine line – explicitly acknowledging the UK’s national security interests, and shoring up our nation’s resilience, while also continuing to deal with China as an economic partner.

Over the past decade, the Chinese Communist Party has sought to tighten its authoritarian grip and has demonstrated a callous disregard for human rights. If the UK is to take a meaningful stand against the Chinese government, we need to wean ourselves off our dependence on China.

The debate over whether China is a friend or foe does little to settle the practical questions ahead of us. Any redesignation of China risks amounting to little more than semantics – particularly if a change in language isn’t coupled with substantial new policies and action.

We were surprised that Taiwan was not mentioned once in the 122 pages of the Integrated Review. Any conflict between Taiwan and China would be quickly felt in our high streets; working with China to support peaceful resolutions is vital. We hope that the updated Integrated Review addresses tensions in the Taiwan strait head on.

Any re-write of our foreign policy strategy must have increased resilience at its core. In recent years the UK’s resilience has been repeatedly tested. From the pandemic, to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, these seismic shocks have exposed our vulnerability.

If we are to remain a heavyweight on the world stage, it is clear we need to become more resilient. This will empower us to make decisions and take action based on what’s right, not out of necessity.  In today’s report we’re calling for the creation of a cross-departmental national resilience lead to ensure that resilience is incorporated into policy across government.

Although the Indo-Pacific is a key region for the UK and global stability, the phrase ‘tilt to the Indo-Pacific’ is unhelpful. The UK is not tilting away from its Euro-Atlantic partners.

A careful balance must be struck between nurturing close ties with old friends and allies, particularly in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and forging newer partnerships elsewhere. We welcome the Foreign Secretary’s recent announcement of a more pragmatic approach to deepening relationships across the globe.”

Further information

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