Britain will help shape a new global order and leave behind an “outdated” international system which no longer serves the country’s interests, Boris Johnson’s government has declared ahead of the integrated review of defence, security, and foreign policies.
As well as laying out plans focusing on cyber warfare in defence, and new counter-terrorism initiatives, the review will sketch the future that post-Brexit Britain is seeking to build with strategic and commercial alliances away from Europe, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.
The prime minister will launch the east-of-Suez initiative during a visit to India later this month. The keen interest in strengthening ties in the area has already been illustrated by the invitation issued to India, Australia and South Korea to join the G7 summit after the UK assumed presidency of the group this year.
The Indo-Pacific is “increasingly the geopolitical centre of the world”, No 10 said, stressing that the review would make clear that “there will be some shifts” in the UK’s international policy.
“The UK is applying for partner status at the Association of South East Asian nations and at the end of April the prime minister will travel to India on his first major international visit following our departure from the EU”, a spokesperson said.
There are also plans to apply for membership of the 11-state Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
“The UK cannot rely solely on an increasingly outdated international system to protect our interests and promote our values. Instead, it will establish a new government foreign policy of increased international activism and a UK that works, alongside our allies and using all the tools at our disposal, to shape a more open international order in which democracies flourish”, said Downing Street.
The alliance of democracies being proposed is being viewed in the Indo-Pacific as a move against the hegemonic expansion of China. The British government has also mooted teaming up with the “quadrilateral” group of the US, Australia, Japan and India.
Joe Biden took part in the first summit of the group’s leaders, in a virtual forum, last week with Scott Morrison, Narendra Modi, and Yoshihide Suga.
The integrated review will point to the military role the UK is ramping up in east Asia. The Royal Navy’s flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is due to take her maiden voyage in the Indo-Pacific with American F-35 warplanes on board.
Measures on security will include setting up a “situation centre” in the Cabinet Office, which will draw on the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic to organise use the of data to anticipate and respond to future crises.
Counter-terrorism centres will be established bringing together the intelligence agencies, police and prosecutors to respond to attacks.
Mr Johnson will say on the review’s conclusions: “I am profoundly optimistic about the UK’s place in the world and our ability to seize the opportunities ahead.
“The ingenuity of our citizens and the strength of our union will combine with our international partnerships, modernised Armed Forces and a new green agenda, enabling us to look forward with confidence as we shape the world of the future.”