Intellectual foundations of the IR
The Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy is the most important British strategy document since end of Cold War. Its significance comes not only from its unprecedented scope across policy areas; perhaps even more important is the strategic conception, the intellectual armature around which it is designed. At its heart is the idea of strategic competition understood in its genuine geostrategic-military sense rather than as a simplistic sporting-race analogy.
This is best expressed in the distinction between the “threat-based” framework for strategy-making that takes a long-term, systemic perspective and the “risk-based” model which has prevailed in the West since the Cold War. Any risk-based formula is by definition un-strategic: among other drawbacks, its neat categories of risk oversimplify a complex landscape; it takes a passive, short-term approach rather than addressing underlying causes; and it struggles to consider threats in their full context.
The risk-framework also leaves no real room for properly identifying long-wave, systemic threats to the UK and its allies’ security ecosystem; and prevents the development and pursuit (in conjunction with key allies) of long-term strategies required to deal with such specific and identifiable geostrategic threats. A threat-based strategic competition approach, on the other hand, is the reverse of the above and is driven by an understanding of systemic threats that ultimately hold everyone at risk.
This Integrated Review is therefore particularly notable for embracing competition and the systemic analysis of the strategic environment as its main intellectual engines. Both concepts have received significant attention from Policy Exchange in recent years, particularly during the time when John Bew – the lead author of the Integrated Review – was heading our Britain in the World Project before his appointment in 2019 as the Prime Minister’s Special Adviser on Foreign Affairs.
The competitive framework underpinning the IR
Now a widely-used notion, “strategic competition” only came to prominence in official thinking relatively recently. It underpins much of the IR’s intellectual approach, as does the concept of “systemic challenge”. Policy Exchange was an early pioneer of the competitive framework of strategic analysis in the UK, as the term was gaining new currency in the US National Security Council especially under Nadia Schadlow and H.R. McMaster. In 2018 our report, A Question of Power, urged that “it is the logic of long-term strategic competition that should now prevail in the government’s councils” and described China as posing a “systemic” challenge, including to our values.
Shaping international order
The “change of approach” that is at the heart of the IR, the shift from defending the status quo in the international order to shaping its next iteration, as well as the “burden sharing” emphasised in the Prime Minister’s 2030 Vision laid out in the IR – these are ideas that John Bew refined and championed during his time at Policy Exchange. They appear as the no.1 recommendation in his 2019 Making Global Britain Work report where he urged the next Prime Minister to: “Pursue a grand strategy of ‘creative conservative internationalism’”. The goal was one of “preserving and defending the best aspects of the ‘rules-based international order’ but also adopting a more proactive stance: working with allies and stepping forward as a burden-sharer to help shape a new international system that is amenable to the UK’s long-term interests and values. Rather than being seen as curators of the old order built out of the Second World War, we should aim to be ‘present at the creation’ of the new one emerging today, leveraging every sinew of our national strength to maximise our influence.”
The ‘tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific, the key strategic decision of the IR
Tilting to the Indo-Pacific is the most conspicuous grand-strategic decision taken by the British Government in decades. As leading US think tank Atlantic Council noted earlier this year, in the run-up to the IR the UK foreign policy debate was framed by “two distinct visions emerging of Britain’s role in the world”: one, represented by Chatham House, focused on Europe and advising against a more expansive global role and cautioning against closer ties with India; and the other, espoused by Policy Exchange, arguing the opposite – a strategic but nuanced shift to the Indo-Pacific and an emphasis on relations with Japan and India.
The IR unambiguously decided this central debate in UK foreign policy in line with Policy Exchange’s recommendations, drawing to a large extent on our landmark 2020 report, A Very British Tilt: Towards a new UK strategy in the Indo-Pacific which carried a Foreword by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The report was produced by a distinguished international Commission of current and former political leaders, diplomats, experts and military leaders from the Indo-Pacific Region and the UK, assembled by Policy Exchange and chaired by former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It demonstrated, in particular, two key points which can now be found embedded into the IR’s conceptual construct for Britain’s Indo-Pacific tilt:
- The need to tread carefully without pretentions of “leadership”, mindful of the existing regional relationships and political sensitivities, seeking to play an enabling and supporting role and leading only where appropriate.
- The strong desire from all free and independent quarters of the Indo-Pacific Region to see more British involvement in the region, based on an understanding of the many advanced capabilities that the UK can bring to the region. This on-the-ground reality runs counter to the narrative that has emerged here at home since 2016 about Britain’s supposed diminished relevance.
The Policy Exchange report provides many of the arguments that would give confidence to anyone seeking to make a strong case for tilting to the Indo-Pacific. In the event, it can be observed that almost the entire IR “framework” for the Indo-Pacific (pp.66-67) mirrors recommendations and analysis from the Policy Exchange report. A selection of ideas common to both documents includes:
- A greater and more persistent UK military presence in the region
- Greater UK collaboration with India specifically on global challenges like climate change, clean energy and global health
- Stating a long-term commitment to the region, to develop closer relationships and partnerships
- Specific diplomatic objectives relating to the FPDA, ASEAN and the Pacific Islands Forum as well as engagement with other regional security frameworks.
- And an entire set of “actions” which are found in both the IR and the Policy Exchange report, including addressing issues around resilience, supply chains (including, specifically, medical supplies), cooperation and capacity building in cyber, maritime and other areas of security and defence.
Our Indo-Pacific report also flagged up regulatory diplomacy as one of the tools to leverage in that region. The Integrated Review, however, lifts regulatory diplomacy to general strategic prominence as the first element on the UK’s general diplomatic innovation agenda, rather than specifically in relation to the Indo-Pacific tilt policy.
This topic remains firmly on Policy Exchange’s research agenda, since the introduction of cutting-edge technology is increasing the complexity of the security landscape with direct repercussions on highly competitive, under-regulated and contested domains (cyber, space, data governance, maritime). These are domains that the UK adversaries are increasingly looking to exploit, using existing legal gaps, legal ambiguities and legal discrepancies (instrumental lawfare). A comprehensive, proactive and cross-departmental “regulatory diplomacy” strategy is required, as it would be particularly useful to avoid a rapid escalation of violence and would help the UK to regain a competitive advantage and influence in highly competitive domains.
Space vaulted to the top of UK’s strategic agenda
With space designated as one of the pillars of Britain’s future strategic advantage, listed prominently as a defence modernisation priority and receiving a total of over 70 unique mentions, the Integrated Review clearly shows that the space domain is now core to the Government’s strategic vision for this country. This major conceptual leap at the official level vindicates the work of Policy Exchange’s Space Policy Unit, the only unit dedicated to this policy area at any UK think tank. It was launched in 2019, before the advent of the Johnson Administration, when space was only beginning to register on the agenda as a result of the Galileo affair. From the beginning the Unit’s explicit and unique mission to have space recognised as a fundamental, critical component of the UK national interest in the 21st century and to place it at the heart of the Government’s strategic thinking. Mission accomplished.
New high-technology alliances
The IR specifies the Government’s intent to increase international space collaboration with a number of entities including Canada, Japan and Australia. This fits well with a key Policy Exchange recommendation from our landmark November 2020 report, A Very British Tilt, which suggested that the UK should work towards a new “Space Technology Alliance” starting with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan and potentially South Korea.
Sovereign space capabilities and industrial base
The IR mentions the need for sovereign space capabilities; a sovereign space industrial base; focusing on developing the space enterprise environment or ecosystem, including through setting up a Space Business Fund to support better access to finance within the sector; and more civil-military space integration. These are all important issues that we have raised and advocated previously in our 2019 Space Manifesto and Modernising the UK papers as well as in other public forums.
The IR’s specific commitment to a “sovereign UK space industry” is a particularly astute strategic point. As we have explained on other occasions, as long as British space ambitions are critically dependent on foreign-owned companies for critical competencies, the resulting lack of a sovereign ability to develop critical space projects on a national or Five Eyes-only basis pre-judges strategic decisions about UK space capability programmes. This is a structural issue for the UK’s entire space posture, and it is extremely welcome that the IR has expressly recognised it.
Net Assessment to improve UK strategy capability
The IR embraces Net Assessment as one of the main tools to support cross-government strategy-making. Policy Exchange’s report, A Question of Power: Towards Better UK Strategy Through Net Assessment, first put this issue on the UK public agenda in 2018. A number of other analytical points and suggestions for improving UK strategy-making also carried over into the IR.
Arguing that “a ‘Global Britain’ engaged in a long-term international competition needs to play a much more efficient and finely tuned strategic game,” A Question of Power explained that Net Assessment is a framework for the strategic analysis of power balances which measures the overall capabilities of nations in relation to each other, rather than each on its own merits.
The Policy Exchange report set out the case for the establishment of a new MoD Office of Net Assessment, based on the highly successful 45-year-old American model functioning in the Pentagon, to “facilitate a restoration of British strategy-making capacity and to deal with first-order defence questions”. The IR has now made the highest-level commitment to implement this concept.
Trade as a strategic tool
The IR recognises that the UK’s new trade policy is not simply a commercial endeavour. It is also a geopolitical tool that should help to underpin the deeper economic, political and security relationships, upon which a successful Global Britain will rely. As Policy Exchange’s Indo-Pacific Commission’s report, A Very British Tilt, argued: “Trade is strategy, not just money”.
Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
CPTPP accession is listed as a Government objective and is central to its plans to engage with the Indo-Pacific. In 2018’s Trading Tigers report, Policy Exchange was the first think tank to advocate the UK seeking membership of the CPTPP – noting the geopolitical dimension and the benefit of British accession to the UK and the CPTPP’s existing members.
The IR’s emphasis on the UK “as a global services, digital and data hub” highlights that the UK’s natural economic strengths often sat uneasily within the wider EU’s order of priorities, where these sectors have tended to be less strategically important to the big players, particularly France and Germany. Policy Exchange’s recent paper Post-Brexit freedoms and opportunities for the UKhighlighted that the UK is the most specialised exporter of services in the world and that the UK is likely to prioritise liberalisation of trade in services to a greater extent than the EU did on its behalf.
What is clear – Brexit or no Brexit – is that the global economic and political weight of Europe is in relative decline. As Policy Exchange’s report The art of a US-UK trade deal argued, Brexit has only emphasised the need for the UK to diversify its international relationships, and ensure it is relevant in and to all three of the world’s major economic and geopolitical hubs – Europe, North America, and the Indo-Pacific. The IR highlighted that India, alongside acceding to the CPTPP and becoming a Dialogue Partner of ASEAN, is a key plank of the UK’s Indo-Pacific economic strategy and that a potential comprehensive trade deal with India is a long-term ambition. The IR highlights Africa, in particular East Africa, and the Gulf as additional priorities.
Indeed, trade is central to the “Indo-Pacific tilt” outlined in the IR. This was a central recommendation of Policy Exchange’s Indo-Pacific Commission, which proposed a twin-track approach of a “Security Agenda” and a “Prosperity Agenda”. It was argued by the Commission that the Prosperity Agenda should be focused on “trade, economics and technology issues, including recently raised questions of supply chain diversification from China, intellectual property, digital standards, science cooperation, sustainable development and environmental protection.”
The IR also recognises the increasing necessity of working with like-minded partners to promote free and fair trade and cooperation on global rules – the need for “regulatory diplomacy” was another key recommendation of Policy Exchange’s Indo-Pacific Commission. This is particularly relevant in emerging technologies, as systemic competition with China intensifies.
The context in which this review was written was that of not just the pandemic but also against the backdrop of a changing and growing global economy. It is a world economy that will increasingly look to the Indo Pacific, reflecting the emergence of China and the continued strength of the US. There is a fundamental shift and in wealth and power to the Indo Pacific and the review was right to frame its strategy and polices in that context. The review reflects the post-pandemic need to focus on greater resilience in the face of external risks. This, too, can be mirrored in the economic debate in terms of the need to strengthen the domestic economy and its supply-chains. The review also reflected, the key pre-pandemic economic trends that are likely to re-emerge and these were very evident in underpinning some of the thinking in this review, in particular the increasing importance of the Indo Pacific and the proliferation of technology as we head into a fourth industrial revolution.
The recognition of the increasing importance of the Indo Pacific and emphasis on continuing a positive trade and investment relationship with China will reinforce the importance of London, not just as a place to do business in but a place to do business from. This follows on from the logic of Gerard Lyons’s 2017 paper, Clean Brexit, that the UK should look to deepen economic relationships across the world as it emerges from Brexit. It is important to highlight that strengthening ties in this region should be pursued alongside continuing relationships with Europe and Africa. Policy Exchange has identified the benefits in terms of economic welfare of embracing the opportunities that this change presents.
At the heart of this is an appreciation that open markets and trade are key to the future evolution of our economic welfare. Central to this is the welfare of the consumer and economic agents that arises from domestic markets that take advantage of the full international division of labour and the opportunities that trade offers to expose domestic markets to competition and challenge. Policy Exchange has explored these issues in a 2018 report on trade, Global Champion, and a 2017 report on the future of agriculture, Farming Tomorrow.
Policy Exchange’s approach has been based on a radical rejection of the mercantilist reflex of the EU and its ambition to construct protected internal markets in response to the emergence of dynamic Asian tiger economies. Like the Review, Policy Exchange’s approach is to embrace and open the global market economy and to develop deeper partnerships with a range of important partners.
Just as the IR recognises the role that the UK should play through global institutions, there is a strong case to push this agenda in terms of economic policy and thinking too, with the UK now taking up its seat at the World Trade Organisation, and active on all the multilateral groups.
The emphasis placed in the IR on technology, both as a way of gaining a strategic advantage as well as a risk to the UK’s national resilience reflects the impact we can expect a fourth (and later, fifth) industrial revolution in technology to have on both the economy and wider society. While the economic debate regarding the increased use of technology tends to reflect the opportunities this presents, the review has raised important points that governments across the world will have to deal with in terms of the associated risks.
Increased spending on science and research and the deployment of novel technology in defence settings in many respects represents investment in merit good and the process of discovery and application is likely to yield beneficial ‘spillovers’ that improve the functioning of the economy through both innovation and the diffusion of technology. Furthermore, security and defence spending outlined in this Review will also have important implications for the domestic economy. Although there has as yet been no breakdown of where increased spending will take place, we can expect this to benefit a range of economic hubs across the country.
While this is an admirable outline of the UK’s future foreign policy and defence strategy, it makes the absence of an economic strategy in the UK more obvious. The Policy Exchange Economics team will play an important role in influencing what a UK economic plan should entail and continue to set out what the direction of travel of the economy should be. It is vital that we get these policies right, as only with strong, sustained economic growth can we sustain the ambitions laid out in this Review.
Explicit mention of the term “Islamist”
The Integrated Review explicitly refers to Islamist terrorism in several places and acknowledges that it remains the primary terror threat to the UK. The use of the phrase Islamist here is important, given that it has been challenged recently, both by a police CT advisory group (CTAN) and previously by Max Hill QC when serving as an Independent Reviewer of Counter Terrorism Legislation. In November Policy Exchange published the report Understanding Islamism, in which we specifically stressed the importance of the continued use of the term Islamism.
The Integrated Review highlights the importance of free speech, and particularly commits to defending press and media freedom, as well as noting the importance of “protecting and promoting freedom of expression online.” In our papers On Islamophobia, Eroding the Free Press, and The Trial: the strange case of Trevor Phillips, we repeatedly drew attention to how the charge of Islamophobia is being used to shut down free expression and curtail the free media as part of an international campaign that operates across borders.
In addition to significantly increasing resources for counter terrorism policing, the most significant CT policy unveiled in the Integrated Review is the announcement of the creation of a Counter Terrorism Operations Centre, to better integrate multiagency cooperation in the fight against terrorism. As described in the Integrated Review, this new CT Operations Centre appears to be primarily focused on rapid response to terrorist incidents, as well as to the emerging intelligence picture. What will be crucial to see is whether the new Operations Centre takes on some of the preventative work currently covered by the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT), as well as the Research, Information, and Communications Unit (RICU) in the Home Office. In particular, will the Operations Centre advance the work of monitoring and disrupting extremist support networks that assist terrorists either materially or ideologically?
The Integrated Review places particular emphasis on the threat from disinformation, and the need to challenge its reach, including through the cross-government Counter-Disinformation Unit announced a year ago. Through Policy Exchange’s research in this area, we have seen how organisations and media platforms that are funded and closely connected to groups overseas, and non-democratic states, seek to use disinformation to promote distrust of UK counter terrorism measures. This includes active campaigning, lobbying, and lawfare against CT measures. Again, it will be important to see how the existing work of RICU fits into the Government’s larger efforts against disinformation – a matter that will need to be looked at as part of the ongoing Prevent review.
The Integrated Review acknowledges the importance of enhancing the delivery of the counter-radicalisation Prevent programme. In particular, the Integrated Review notes a refreshed training programme for practitioners. Policy Exchange’s work has consistently highlighted the importance of “choosing our friends wisely” in national counter extremism and counter radicalisation efforts, while also ensuring that public institutions are not influenced by extremists. It will be important for the new Prevent training to help practitioners, the wider public sector, and particularly the police, to guard against these ways in which committed extremists—including those with foreign backing—can seek to undermine our security and values.
The Integrated Review has put resilience front and centre in UK’s security strategy, expanding the notion to cover risks originating overseas as well as highlighting the increasing importance in the resilience mix of areas such as health and the environment.
In terms of improving the resilience of Critical National Infrastructures (CNI), the Review specified a commitment to “investing in new capabilities to protect undersea CNI” – the main element of which are undersea cables. The urgent security vulnerability affecting this critical UK infrastructure was first highlighted by Rishi Sunak MP in his 2017 Policy Exchange report, Undersea Cables: Indispensable, insecure. The report’s first recommendation was that “The next Strategic Defence and Security Review should specifically address threats to Britain’s security from attacks on our undersea cable infrastructure”.
Zoonotic diseases acknowledged as a new key risk
A new environmental area in the 2021 Integrated Review is the explicit link between human-animal interactions and the outbreak of infectious diseases. As a consequence of the zoonotic origins of COVID-19, the Review puts the spotlight on the risk drivers of zoonotic diseases and how they link to security issues, such as the need to take preventative action against diseases jumping the species barrier, and increasing our national preparedness for the next time they do. These issues echo Policy Exchange’s report, Outbreaks and Spillovers, which was published in May 2020. Specifically, the IR proposes a Global One Health Intelligence Hub (p.94), echoing Policy Exchange’s recommendation for “a new or strengthened international body to lead the monitoring, research and inspection of high-risk activities” that contribute to the risk of zoonotic diseases.
Green finance, a strategic priority
The Integrated Review includes the Government’s aim to make the UK the world’s leading centre for Green Finance (p.89). This is fully in line with Policy Exchange’s recent report, Capital Shift, which has made a major contribution to this agenda. It recommends how the UK can use its presidencies of the G7 and COP26 to green the financial system, including by maintaining the City of London’s status as the world leader in sustainable finance.
A new dimension to UK national security
Compared to its predecessors (the 2010 and 2015 Security Reviews), the 2021 Integrated Review frames biodiversity as a core component of the UK’s national security – naming tackling climate change and biodiversity loss as the UK’s “number one international priority” (p.4). Policy Exchange’s recent report, Outbreaks and Spillovers, explores in detail the impact of reduced biodiversity on the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19 and recommends relevant amendments to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Integrated Review highlights the importance of secure, affordable and clean energy as essential to the UK’s national interests (p.92). Several of the Energy and Environment Unit’s recent reports highlight the importance of international cooperation to tackle climate change and to improve energy security. For instance, the Unit’s reports on The Future of the North Sea and The Future of UK-EU Energy Cooperation both highlight practical steps that the UK can take to increase the supply of secure, affordable and clean energy across Europe.
Emerging technologies for strategic UK advantage
This is a core theme of the Integrated Review, underpinning most of its strategic recommendations, but bears particularly heavily on the document’s prescriptions in the military domain. This idea – and the precise argument – was explicitly articulated as far back as 2018 in our report, A Question of Power, which noted that:
“More space should be created for new discussions on just how the emerging technologies – particularly cyber and artificial intelligence coupled with advanced robotics – can be quickly harnessed both to give the UK a strategic advantage, and to plug certain capability gaps. … For example, mass has traditionally had a very welldefined meaning in a military-operational context – and is often used as an argument for maintaining certain force levels – but this risks an oversimplification of the debate in an age where we are moving towards mixed robotic-human battlefield formations and tactics.”
Policy Exchange has pressed this conceptual point ever since. For example, in January 2020, our Visiting Scholar, Dr William Schneider Jr, former Chair of the US Defense Science Board, gave a major speech on “Delivering National Scientific & Technological Advantage” across the broad field of science and technology, and what kind of management culture is required for these purposes in Government. Dr Schneider’s address came in the context of Policy Exchange’s work on ARPA – embodied in our 2019 collection of essays, Visions of ARPA – which has now become the Government’s new ARIA (the Advanced Research and Invention Agency).
The IR has also committed to creating a new role of “Technology Envoy to the US”, with a mandate to strengthen the UK’s relationships in Silicon Valley. This was one of the specific recommendations contained in our paper, A “Washington Strategy” for British Diplomacy, published in February 2020. The Policy Exchange report explains in more detail the need for the UK to up its game in the US, both at the level of the UK Embassy in D.C. and, crucially, at the level of individual American States and especially within the wider American Tech sector.
The Integrated Review included plans to tackle economic crime, reform the companies house register and help to prevent “cyberspace from being used as a global platform for serious crimes, including fraud and sexual abuse of children”. Digital identity will be crucial to the fulfilment of this ambitions. Policy Exchange’s 2020 report Verified: The UK’s Digital Identity Dilemmas, which featured a foreword from Minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman MP, outlined how the Government could develop better systems to allow people to create and use ‘digital identities’ to prove their identity online in order to prevent billions of pounds of fraud a year. It remains the most comprehensive report into this subject published by any UK think tank.
As noted, a whole section of the Integrated Review is rightly dedicated to sustaining strategic advantage through science and technology. Beyond its headline promises to secure the UK’s “status as a Science and Tech Superpower by 2030”, establish the UK as a “global services, digital and data hub” and to set up a National Cyber Force (NCF), a number of interesting new developments are worthy of comment from a tech perspective.
Offensive Cyber Tools: One of the key elements of the review is its pledge that the UK will engage much more robustly in the cyber operational domain. As the report makes clear, the UK is the third most powerful cyber nation in the world, ranking top in defence, intelligence, norms and offensive capabilities. The review states that, in the future, the UK will “make much more integrated, creative and routine use of the UK’s full spectrum of levers – including the National Cyber Force’s offensive cyber tools – to detect, disrupt and deter our adversaries.” Whilst the UK will continue to declare offensive cyber capabilities to NATO allies under its Article 5 commitment, this is an important shift in strategy and will make the focus elsewhere on cyber diplomacy even more important.
Key Strategic Science and Technology Partnerships: The integrated review has a dedicated section to Science and Technology. This section of the IR builds upon the UK’s R&D Roadmap, published in July 2020. The review’s focus on Quantum Security should be particularly welcomed due to the fact that this is an area of emerging technology in which the UK is particularly strong, launching a National Quantum Computing Centre in 2020. The review also set out the importance of developing “deeper partnerships in science, technology and data”. As William Schneider Jr has explained, much more could be done to build upon the US-UK Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty. As Schneider pointed out at Policy Exchange, “the implementing regulations inserted coincident with Senate ratification of the Treaty in 2010 made implementation of the Treaty’s provisions unfeasible.” It is essential not only that key strategic partnerships with democratic allies are maintained but also that the UK seeks closer cooperation with its closest partners, in particular the United States.
Implementing Digital and Data proposals: The review also contains a considerable commitment to transform the Government’s use of digital, data and technology. The review explains how “interoperability through architectures, standards and development methods will be required so that teams across government can work effectively together across all levels of security”. It also states that the new “Central Digital and Data Office will be an important catalyst for further change”. The new CDDO, however, is in its infancy. The Government was unable to find a Government Chief Digital Officer (GCDO) to serve as the professional head of HMG’s 18,000 person DDaT profession, ranking alongside Permanent Secretaries in the Civil Service hierarchy. The CDDO also does not have a long-term budget allocation for the next decade or two. To overcome this, the CDDO should appoint a defence specialist to its council of non-executive directors, which is to be chaired by Paul Wilmott, a world leading expert on quantitative finance.
Digital Twinning: The concept of digital twinning is given equal footing to the new National Cyber Force in the IR’s summary. This should be welcomed. Improved digital twinning has been absent from previous strategies and establishing a “national capability” will pave the way for rapid prototyping, virtual testing and more effective design iteration and optimisation. It will also make inspection, maintenance and repairing of systems/equipment/machinery more cost-efficient and effective. The development of a ‘national’ capability may have spill-over effects for other policy areas such as the built environment or infrastructure maintenance.
Foreign Investment/IP: The Review makes a series of commitments to “safeguard British intellectual property and companies against national security risks, intervening in inward investment where necessary and proportionate”. This is particularly relevant because of the recent National Security and Investment Bill, currently at Committee Stage in the House of Lords. This will have important implications for the UK technology sector. The inclusion of such commitments in the Integrated Review demonstrate a long-term commitment to ensuring that the UK enjoys enforcement powers that are in line with our allies and partners around the world, such as the United States, Australia and Japan.
Regional Organised Crime Units highlighted
Although the IR was primarily focused with the threats the UK will have to deal with emanating from abroad, it reaffirmed the importance of strengthening security at home. We were pleased to see the damaging effect of Serious and Organised Crime highlighted in the IR, as this not only threatens the safety of citizens in the UK but costs the country at least £37 billion a year. The Review recommends bolstering “Regional Organised Crime Units, in coordination with local policing and the NCA”, as well as strengthening the National Crime Agency (NCA). This is something that Policy Exchange has also worked on – we highlighted the importance of tackling the less visible threat from Serious and Organised Crime in a 2019 report, Rekindling British Policing, as well as the importance of increasing support for both the NCA and Regional Organised Crime Units to deal with this threat.
Companies House reform and economic crime
As part of a wider strategy to increase the resilience of the global economy, the IR recommended a crackdown on economic crime, something Policy Exchange raised last year as being a significant hindrance to the UK’s ability to respond effectively to the coronavirus crisis. Although the official “UK Economic Crime Plan 2019-22” had highlighted the necessity for Companies House reform, we are pleased to see this reiterated in the IR. The Review recommends that legislation to tackle economic crime should be introduced as soon as possible, and should include ‘reform of Companies House registration’. This formed one of the recommendations of our 2020 report, Daylight Robbery, which urged the Government to expedite reform of Companies House and introduce rigorous identity checks for Companies House directors.
The Integrated Review contained a number of important references to issues and themes which are also very much on Policy Exchange’s agenda:
Reform of the WHO. The IR calls for greater “coherence” across international architecture, including in data and surveillance. This is something that Policy Exchange has looked at, and intends to cover as part of our upcoming international event on the role of Global Britain in International Health Governance. Central to this is the commitment to increase UK contributions to the WHO by 30 percent (£340m) over the next four years – first announced by the Prime Minister last September.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is, alongside pandemics, the other main threat identified which could compromise our long-term healthcare resilience. However there are no new funding or policy interventions specified in the IR – some of that may be held back for the G7 in June, as AMR has been listed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock as one of his four stated priority areas for the conference. Notably there is a reiteration of commitment to maintain collaborative work with the EU on AMR – which emerged from the 2017 AMR EU Action Plan.
Research funding. The IR reaffirms a commitment to £1.3bn for DHSC research funding which was made during the November 2020 Spending Review. But this may not qualm worries about the UK pulling away from some of its commitments to fund science research in low and middle income countries. It was widely reported over the last week that the UKRI budget for development projects has been cut from £245m to £125m as a consequence of the temporary suspension of the 0.7% foreign aid funding target.
The Integrated Review stresses the intent to strengthen Britain as a “force for good” in the world and to pursue a values-shaped approach to global affairs. In particular, humanitarian response – and a number of actions under that headline – receives significant attention in the IR, while atrocity prevention is mentioned as part of a priority action under the Review’s Conflict and Instability section. Both are issues which Policy Exchange has advocated in the past. We are particularly proud of our 2017 report which speaks to these matters, The Cost of Doing Nothing: The Price of Inaction in the Face of Mass Atrocities, one of whose initiators and early co-authors was the late Jo Cox MP, and which was finished by her friends. Another Policy Exchange report that touched on these matters was John Bew’s Making Global Britain Work paper which called for “a new cross-government Atrocity Prevention Strategy that anticipates and avoids situations in which external intervention is needed.”
|Policy Exchange reports mentioned in this document:|
|A Question of Power: Towards Better UK Strategy Through Net Assessment|
|Making Global Britain Work|
|A Very British Tilt: Towards a new UK strategy in the Indo-Pacific|
|Space: Policy Ideas for the Next Prime Minister|
|Post-Brexit freedoms and opportunities for the UK|
|The art of a US-UK trade deal|
|Eroding the Free Press|
|The Trial: the strange case of Trevor Phillips|
|Outbreaks and Spillovers|
|The Future of the North Sea|
|The Future of UK-EU Energy Cooperation|
|Visions of ARPA|
|A “Washington Strategy” for British Diplomacy|
|Eroding the Free Press|
|The Trial: the strange case of Trevor Phillips|
|Rekindling British Policing|
|Undersea Cables: Indispensable, insecure|
|The Cost of Doing Nothing: The Price of Inaction in the Face of Mass Atrocities|
|Verified: The UK’s Digital Identity Dilemmas|