Protecting the UK from internal and external threats | Antony Higginbotham

This week the Prime Minister published the Integrated Review, the most comprehensive review of UK foreign, defence and security policy in decades.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 12:30 pm

It builds on the promises I made in December 2019 for a globally active UK that is stronger, more secure and more prosperous.

And fundamentally it will enable us to protect our country’s interests and promote our values.

Both things that I believe we can, and should, do.

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

Historically our reviews have focused on just one policy area or Government department.

In the last decade we have had a National Security Strategy, two Strategic Defence & Security Reviews, White Papers on international aid, and more.

But they have never been brought together in a way which has analysed all of the threats, all of the opportunities, and come up with a cohesive strategy of how the UK will manage these.

Whitehall has continued to think of the world as it did in the Cold War and in reality, much has changed.

As we take our place as an independent trading nation we have the opportunity to think about the kind of trade deals we want to strike, and who we strike them with; we need to rethink the threats we face as cyber becomes an ever increasing part of day-to-day life; we need to protect our new Space domain – on which all UK armed force operations now rely; and we need to use our diplomatic network, which is one of the largest in the world, to best effect.

The Integrated Review, which was announced by the Prime Minister, is the culmination of all that thinking.

It has gone further than any other paper on looking at how we define ourselves in the world, setting out a vision for 2030 and how we will use the full range of international policy to achieve it.

And it really does matter too.

In the last few years alone we have seen a biological weapon deployed on UK streets by Russia; the WannaCry attack on the NHS which impacted everything from ambulances to MRI scanners; and adversaries testing satellite-disabling missiles that could switch off much of what we rely on in an instant.

Using our newfound sovereignty to forge new friendships and strengthen existing ones is therefore at the core of the new strategy.

There is a necessary focus on areas like the Indo-Pacific where we are striking new free trade deals and building lasting relationships, but where we must also watch for emerging threats.

Later this year a sovereign UK Carrier Group will sail to the region, demonstrating our commitment to maintaining security in the region, and engaging with our allies from NATO and beyond.

The Review also sets the scene for the wholesale modernisation of our armed forces. Whilst our people are amongst the fiercest, and best trained anywhere in the world, some of our kit is simply out of date.

Next week the Defence Secretary will be announcing what this modernisation will look like in practice.

It also means continuing to strengthen our homeland security, building on firm foundations in counterterrorism, intelligence and cyber security, something I raised in the Commons on Monday.

The injection of an additional £16.5 billion over the next four years will make sure our nation’s defence is ready and able to adapt and defend against the ever-changing range of threats our country faces.

It ensures we have the tools and skills to keep our nation safe and prospering.

The Government has also committed to using this Review to continue our determination to Level-Up across the country. I have no doubt that previous administrations would have established cyber security centres in places like London, but the establishment of the new National Cyber Security Force HQ in the North West is a perfect example of how we can improve our defences and allow us to harness the very best talent from every corner of the UK.

And this will form part of a broader Cyber Corridor too, delivering true transformation.

This Review is honest about the threats we face and how we need to adapt and prepare for them.

It reassures our allies, old and new alike, that we will remain one of the most globally active nations in the world – committed to upholding peace and security, and the rules-based system which we all depend on. And it sends a clear message to our adversaries too.