UK Faces Challenge by Competitors, Says Defense Secretary

A Journal of People report

The British defence secretary has stressed the importance of stepping up the UK’s protective capabilities amidst constantly evolving rivalries, adding that China is intent on building the world’s largest naval fleet. 

Addressing the Atlantic Future Forum onboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth on Wednesday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace spoke of the constant competition the UK was facing in the “grey zone between war and peace,” while specifically singling out China as an ever-evolving rival.

The secretary said: “China is growing the largest maritime surface and subsurface fleet in the world.”

Referencing UK’s decision to delay its spending review amid uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Wallace said that the UK still needs to step up on the military front, as “the world does not stop for our reviews.”

The country’s adversaries “will not halt [in] the absence of our strategies, and the UK’s defense can never be paused in the face of financial uncertainty,” he added.

The government’s delayed review, which reportedly contained commitments from London to back long-term military investment, is now not expected until late November as the government focuses on the coronavirus pandemic.

Wallace has also used the annual Forum event, in which the UK and U.S. address issues of trade, security and defense, to state that “at this time of global uncertainty and evolving adversaries,” it is vital for the UK to continue to work together with the United States “to strengthen our special alliance.”

Wallace comments came as the UK Treasury announced it was scrapping a three-year spending review, plunging plans for the long-in-the-works Integrated Review into defense, security and foreign policy into doubt.

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak decided to scrap the comprehensive spending review in the face of economic uncertainty caused by the ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

The pandemic has wiped around 20 years’ worth of growth off of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

Wallace added: “We should be signaling to the world that Britain is self-confident, proactive, problem solving, and burden-sharing. Ready to take on the challenges that shaped the opportunities of the 2020s alongside our allies and friends.

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