The Integrated Review – “Global Britain in a Competitive Age”: UK Defence, Development, and Foreign Policy – Post-Brexit

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The Global Pandemic continues, and I am still (largely…) stuck indoors shielding. However, I recently (and finally…) managed to attend one of these Friends of Europe (Brussels-based) think-tank events for ‘members’ (I previously volunteered my time, as a PhD student, on some of their ‘Security Jam’ online events). I was glad I did, as this was a key review of the new ‘BoJo plan’ for the UK’s global defence, development, and foreign policy. In preparing for the event I made a lot of notes, which I have transformed into this blog post.

Like many, I suffer from auto-immune disease. I am still long-term unemployed, living with two elderly parents, and the global pandemic is causing many organisations to indefinitely suspend their hiring process. As usual, this toxic combination of boredom and fear has caused my brain to spit out some ‘interesting’ nuggets, like this blog post. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please don’t forget to #TipYourWaitress…we are all struggling, some of us more than others.

Cover image of the Integrated Review document: summer sun over the UK
Credit: Tim Peake/ESA/NASA

Last month I had the opportunity to attend two defence policy events online. One of which was specifically focused on the inaugural ‘Space Commander’ position, for the MoDs new ‘Space UK’ force. This event was supported by Airbus, and the Freeman Space Institute, and hosted by Kings College London (Dr Sophy Antrobus). The second event was a more wide-ranging review of the recent policy report, delivered by PM Boris Johnson to Parliament, a ‘Friends of Europe’ think-tank hosted event (from Brussels) titled: “What does the UK’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy mean for Euro-Atlantic cooperation?”

“The Integrated Review sets out the government’s overarching national security and international policy objectives to 2025. These will inform future policy-making for all government departments. They will also inform future Spending Reviews, offering further opportunities to align resources with ambition over the long term. We will ensure all government’s instruments work together, coordinated by enhanced strategic capabilities at the centre, to achieve our objectives.”


I will use the notes I prepared, during my hastily compiled research for the think-tank event, to begin to elaborate on a feminist critique of this development. It appears there is very little feminist noise being made about these key developments during a globally insecure and unstable time. This topic is also of relevance to a forthcoming (2022) book chapter I wrote for the 3rd edition of the Encyclopaedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict, titled: ‘Women and/in War’.

One could be forgiven for thinking this Integrated Review is yet another example of a bumbling, unprepared, and incoherent British approach to international relations and global security, which we have witnessed throughout our seemingly never-ending Tory years. Particularly those involving Boris Johnson and his chums. It rather brings to mind a farce, perhaps in the vein of Red Dwarf (though I wouldn’t wish to tarnish such a classic cult British hit with such aspersions).

“It’s cold outside, no kind of atmosphere. I’m all alone, more or less. Let me fly far away from here. Fun, fun, fun…in the sun, sun, sun!”

On initial ‘critical’ review of the policy document delivered to Parliament via Oral Statement by the Conservative Party incumbent PM Boris Johnson on 16th March 2021, a couple of ‘issues’ stand out:

  • Neoliberal foreign policy/policies – despite scant references to Human Rights, appears more focused on trade/profit (for private/corporate stakeholders). A Free Market capitalist (or ‘Crony capitalist’) Utopia roadmap..?
  • ‘Isolationist’ – despite mentions of ‘seeking collaborations’ (these are mostly trade/tech based). The UK wants people to know that we are open for ‘arms’ business.
  • “Strong and secure at home”…”a more robust approach”. What can this mean, I wonder…
  • Overly militaristic and narrow-minded (classical/Realist conceptions of security, self-interest, and the state).
  • A focus on technology development/leadership/trade (particularly cyber and space defence related…).
  • The Military-Industrial Complex, as we were initially warned about by President Eisenhower in 1961, appears to be further emboldened with this Review.

“As part of this new approach, embracing new and emerging technologies is seen as a priority. The MOD intends to invest £6.6 billion over the next four years in defence research and development with specific focus given to emerging technologies in artificial intelligence, AI-enabled autonomous systems, cyber, space and directed energy weapons. Higher risk research and innovation is recognised as essential for modernisation.

Both the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper also acknowledge, however, that embracing new “sunrise” technologies should not come entirely at the expense of more traditional warfighting capabilities.

Among other proposals:

– A new National Cyber Force has been established. A new cyber security strategy will be published in 2021 that will retain the UK’s competitive edge in this sphere and establish the UK as a responsible, democratic, cyber power.

– Artificial intelligence is a key enabler of military capability, across the whole of defence. AI has been incorporated in a number of key programmes, including the Future Combat Air System, and is the focus of several innovative funding programmes through the Defence and Security Accelerator. An AI defence strategy will be published in 2021 and a new Centre for Artificial Intelligence will be established.

– Over the next decade, the MOD will invest £1.4 billion in space-related capabilities. A new Space Command will be established in 2021, along with a new National Space Operations Centre and a new Space Academy. An integrated space strategy will also be published in 2021 which will bring military and civilian space policy together for the first time.”

Claire Mills, Research Briefing, House of Commons Library
Global Britain Statement in Parliament, 2020

Related thoughts – highlighting the distinct lack of ‘integration’ in the framework:

  • Belfast hub for Cyber Defence..? Any relevance to the ‘closeness’ to major IT/social media corps based in Dublin/Ireland..(Cambridge Analytica Scandal)?
  • #Freeman Space/KCL webinar event regarding the new inaugural space defence leadership role: Mentioned upcoming ‘Wilton Park’ gathering to address ‘norm negotiations’. It isn’t clear how this other ‘BoJo’ project will address democratic and legal ramifications of involvement in space defence. Currently a(nother) Wild West-style frontier, dominated by major private corps (nearly at the point of rivalling a sovereign state in power/dominance). International law already struggles to address Cyber challenges/conflicts – it is still not equipped to deal with contemporary forms of warfare, and very slow moving. How does the UK expect to dominate this ‘norm negotiation’, or establish ‘democratic principles’..?
  • It appears more focused on ‘getting/attaining’ strategic power, internationally, without offering thoughts/views/plans on how to use such power (or reviewing how to use current ‘power’/assets more effectively).
  • Very ‘contradictory’ – ex.: 1) focus on cyber defence, while ignoring the fundamental ongoing problem of violence/harassment of women & girls on the platform(s); 2) Increasing policing numbers (counter-terror response), whilst ignoring the ongoing problem of women & girls safety (as democratic protestors/activists/civilians)…especially the risk from members of the policing fraternity; 3) focus on climate risk & ‘obligations’, despite being way behind other nations meeting international climate agreements, seeking to increase spending in the military sector (a major contributor to climate/environment destruction) and ‘cracking down’ on climate protestors – as a ‘state’ security threat.
  • Leeds and London regional/global hubs announced regarding ‘investment in green finance/economy’ – as a long-term native/resident of Leeds – I am sure that locals have no interest in becoming another San Francisco/Silicon Valley (anyone who has visited SF will know the poverty gap is shockingly vast). Leeds already has fundamental issues regarding poverty/austerity and disparity in quality of lived experience (a lot of ‘business’ investment, and empty sky-scrapers, but distinct lack of investment in civic support/civilian resources).
  • Other views/reviews appear to have similar concerns re ‘shortcomings’ of the policy review.
  • Overtly ‘patriarchal’/male/tone-deaf view of state security – this could/should have been an opportunity for a truly ‘alternative’ approach (gaining popularity/traction with other nations): Feminist Foreign Policy (is a more economically sound/stable approach, long term). Particularly given the increasingly modern, hybrid, embedded forms of warfare, and global (economic, and climate) insecurity.
Trump’s ‘Space Force’, still operational. The inspiration for our own..?

Further, the commitment to improving the situation of women and girls (globally) as an economic and security necessity is only offered as a final sentence or two in PMs Foreword statement – there is not much evidence of this ‘priority’ elsewhere in the report. Unfortunately, improvement is typically offered (at such events) as highlighting the slowly increasing numbers of representatives in high office.

“We need political will from the highest level to change things, because we have so many action plans, we have so many declarations, we have so many strategies … but we really need to make this a priority at the top,” (7:57) said Hannah Neumann, Member of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defence.

According to the #SHEcurity Index, women make up only 11% of military staff and 25% of police forces in EU and G20 countries. That’s despite commitments under the UN Security Council’s 2000 resolution on Women, Peace and Security and the 2018 NATO-EU Joint Declaration pledging to ‘aim for swift and demonstrable progress in … promoting the women peace and security agenda.’

Turning such policies into action is the ‘million-dollar question’ said Alan Sneddon, Police Sergeant at Police Scotland and Director of Communications at the European LGBT Police Association (EGPA). Policies need to be realistic, achievable, measurable and with defined outcomes to be effective on the ground, he said.

There also needs to be a cultural change. “Although the police service is a much newer institution than, say, the military, historically that has been a very masculine and heterosexual, white organisation,” Sneddon told the meeting. “You have a  culture that has developed over many decades, or centuries, which needs to be rethought and needs to be challenged at times.” (17:25)

‘Post-patriarchal security’, FoE

Marie Meigård, Sergeant Major in the Swedish Armed Forces, said measures to prevent ‘unwelcome behavior’ in the security services are needed more than ever.

She too underscored the importance of leadership to overcome the negative cultural legacy and make the armed forces an attractive place for women and minorities to work.

“The successful integration of women into combat units depends on the beliefs of the commanders,” she said. “If the commanders believe women can be successful soldiers and that women are just as capable as men, then the units will also become more accepting of female soldiers. I believe this applies to other minorities.”(37:16)

Meigård was among several participants who cautioned against assigning service members specific tasks based on their gender. “You are trained as a solider and you have that training. It’s not important if you are a woman or a man, you have a mission to solve,” she explained. “It should be based on my abilities as a human being, not my gender. (52:24)

Looking at the numbers and role of women and minorities in the forces should not obscure the need for a wider reassessment of security priorities, argued Paul Kirby, Co-Director of the UKRI GCRF Gender, Justice and Security Hub at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

“There is a real danger … that the work on inclusion in existing institutions detracts from, or even replaces, a more comprehensive transformation of what security means and who it is for,” (46:03) he said. Kirby pointed to the EU’s FRONTEX border agency, nuclear disarmament and peace-making policy as examples where there is a need for a broader rethink.

‘Post-patriarchal security’, FoE

As Paul Kirby highlighted, at this recent FoE event (also March 2021), this is not enough and misses the point of criticism levelled at state security initiatives and the military.

Other Critiques (of the Integrated Review):

“While these anxieties are understandable the proposed increase in warheads is disturbing. It will weaken the effectiveness of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and invite severe criticism from many non-nuclear states. Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind”; “It would be good to see a more in-depth focus on what the UK can do to prevent and resolve international conflicts, an area where it has a great deal of capacity and knowledge and a track record of multilateral work, but which is given limited airtime in the report Jane Kinnimont”


“However, the decision within the Integrated Review to spend over 2.2% of GDP on defence, exceeding NATO spending commitments and Conservative Party 2019 manifesto promises, may prove less popular. While Britons are largely supportive of current levels of foreign policy spending, with 40% of Britons thinking the UK should spend ‘about the same’ on its foreign policy programmes as it does at present, only 23% of Britons are supportive of spending more on foreign policy. Furthermore, our 2019 Annual Public Opinion Survey found that of the four central components of foreign policy – trade, defence, diplomacy and international development – only 31% of Britons thought defence was the component of foreign policy that the UK should spend the most money on. Defence already comprises a significant part of the UK’s foreign policy spending and the British public may therefore be hesitant to support such high levels of defence spending, especially at a time of domestic financial difficulty.

Furthermore, while developing the armed forces to be prepared for the diversity of threats that Britons perceive as threatening their safety will be welcomed, as will attempts to mitigate against conflicts, the adoption of a system of ‘persistent engagement’ below the threshold of war in order to meet these challenges may prove controversial. In practice, ‘persistent engagement’ may require military interventionism or a greater military presence abroad, something which is supported only with conditionality by the majority of Britons. Less than a fifth of Britons support British military action abroad under any circumstances, and the largest single group of Britons only supports intervention in the case of direct attacks on British soil or assets, or in the case of a humanitarian genocide. 

Women, younger Britons and those in lower social grades are the least supportive of UK military action. Of those who are hesitant, their caution is primarily driven by concerns about being drawn into conflicts (45%), a sense that the UK’s track record of involvement in other countries is bad (35%), and that money spent on military interventions should be spent at home (28%).”

Evie Aspinall, BFPG

“A quiet revolution took place in Whitehall during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, in which a dawning realisation about the full spectrum of the UK’s vulnerabilities led to a dramatic rethink in how we should conceptualise and uphold our national resilience. As policy-makers became more aware of the extent to which our strategic rivals had moved to a hybrid model of warfare stretching across the civilian-military divide – in which our economy, democracy, and society were all part of the new battleground of influence – it no longer seemed wise nor practicable to make such distinctions between our domestic and international resilience. The Review highlights the need to “establish a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to resilience”, which will allow us to “consider threats and hazards in the round”. Equally, it emphasises the understanding that the best foundation of a successful foreign policy is a cohesive and well-functioning society, to which end the potential break-up of the Union is regarded not only as a constitutional crisis but a tangible security risk.”

Sophia Gaston, BFPG

“Although the Review is frankly unusual in its emphasis on cooperation and collaboration, there are certainly areas that suggest some bumpy roads ahead in aspects of our international relationships. It will surprise few to see that the Review emphasises our intention to cooperate bilaterally with European allies (with France, Ireland and Germany particularly singled out), and our leadership in European security via forums such as NATO, while remaining somewhat more cautious towards cooperation with the European Union as an institution. The EU, however, increasingly aims to see itself as a foreign policy actor, and is signalling its intention to play a role in the Indo-Pacific, which may complicate Britain’s ambitions to become the leading European power in the region. Moreover, the decisions to shift towards a more ‘digital’ defensive capability may lead to some unease amongst our military allies, and our ‘balanced’ approach towards China will undoubtedly fall under constant scrutiny and perhaps even strain. That said, it is difficult to see how our allies will not, for the most part, breathe an enormous sigh of relief to see the weight given within this document to the ‘active’ nature of our posture and role on the world stage. The coming months and years will prove the making of Global Britain, and there will be many tests along the way. But if this Review does indeed provide the framework and substance of the UK’s new foreign policy, we can close the door on the narrative of Britain in retreat.”

Sophia Gaston, BFPG

“The commitments to science and technology, climate action and improving societal resilience are all welcome, but arguably highlight a lack of integration despite the review’s title. The investment in science and technology, as well as being late and limited compared to adversaries, does not seem to engage the broader issue of higher education, save for applied research. Even if all future technology needs were known, this would be short-sighted, but the fact they are not makes it more concerning. A truly integrated review would have taken a broader perspective and been more tolerant of pure research. It would also have focused on improving UK education more generally, not just in relation to attracting global talent. Societal resilience is also a topic demanding broad integration. The review describes an unspecified ‘new approach to preparedness and response to risks’, which would do well to engage society broadly – including education, industry, supply chains and civil society – in a genuinely national endeavour. The idea of creating civilian reserves in addition to greater use of military reserves is certainly worthy, building on the volunteering schemes run throughout the coronavirus pandemic. As thinking on this matures, it needs to go beyond a whole-of-government approach to protecting democratic processes and building resilience. Even within the review itself, a lack of integration is clear in the incongruity between a passionate commitment to the environment and the decision to expand the UK’s nuclear arsenal. While there is much in the review that is positive, there are some significant challenges. There are many instances where the priorities are not clear, and the strategic framework does not help to guide prioritisation between its elements. We must hope that the further work that is promised helps reconcile the ‘ends, ways and means’.”

Paul O’Neill – RUSI

“For many, the UK is not viewed as a hero the world looks to for global leadership and for whom honour, respect and reliability are paramount. The willingness to break international agreements in respect of the EU, allegedly now in relation to Northern Ireland trade, breaches of manifesto commitments in relation to cutting development aid (even if temporary), ignoring (admittedly non-binding) International Court of Justice opinions and General Assembly resolutions (such as in relation to the Chagos Islands), and increasing the nuclear arsenal in a breach of the spirit (at least) of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which follows hot on the heels of the Nuclear Ban Treaty, send messages about the kind of state the UK has become and how reliable it is as a partner. Its knightly armour is more tarnished than the Integrated Review suggests. This is important because, as the review itself acknowledges, the majority of threats are not amenable to independent action.  Understandably, sovereignty is a key plank of this review given the proximity to Brexit, but the government must avoid its ideological position from diminishing the UK’s ability to overcome its threats. The review implies the UK is a ‘middle power’, so working with others is essential. Adopting a purely transactional approach to other countries will not forge the relationships needed to address transnational threats. The UK’s behaviour towards allies and partners must go beyond case-by-case cooperation where the value stream flows only to the UK. While the review perpetuates the careful formulation that sees NATO and the EU as separate, the reality is that much of the membership is the same and it is unrealistic to expect behaviour in one club not to spill over into the other. Perceptions of the UK by European NATO allies will be shaped by behaviour towards them as EU members, and other potential partners will also judge the UK by how it treats its existing partners. This review might have been more compelling as a map had it been blessed with the power Robert Burns wished for: to see ourselves as others see us.”

Paul O’Neill – RUSI

“Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “It is very welcome that the Government has recognised the importance of tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, and has set a goal of making the UK a scientific superpower. However, it is difficult to reconcile this vision for Global Britain with the decision to make devastating cuts to the Global Challenges Research Fund, as a result of the thoroughly reprehensible decision to slash overseas aid. This reckless and sudden move will abruptly end many critical projects that are designed to provide a better understanding of how to promote sustainable development and deal with climate change in poor countries.””


“The Defence Command Paper has bet big that technology will deliver the war-winning edge for the Armed Forces. It has done so without addressing the elephant in the room – personnel.”

Andrew Young, RUSI

“The journey towards ‘jointery’ continues and accelerates, with five-domain ‘integration’ becoming the new buzzword. The international sections of the Defence Command Paper and the DSIS highlight the security interdependencies between the UK and its allies. But they set out few new practical ideas for closer cooperation – and neither they nor the main policy document try to explain how such interdependency squares with the drive towards achieving greater sovereignty in national security. It remains to be seen whether the model of ‘persistent engagement’ overseas that is at the heart of the Defence Command Paper – as well as the new Integrated Operating Concept introduced by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) – will make the difference in deterrence that is claimed.”

Jessett and McKane, RUSI

“Traditionally, climate change is discussed as distinct from other crises, and potential solutions are focused on technology options. But Dr. Stephens argues that this technocratic focus and its associated language has reduced public engagement. In her new book, Diversifying Power: Why We Need Antiracist, Feminist Leadership on Climate and EnergyDr. Stephens argues that transformation to a just, sustainable renewable-based society requires leaders who connect social justice to climate and energy.”

Kevin Kruse, Forbes

“Reacting to the new policy, Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said: “A decision by the United Kingdom to increase its stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in the middle of a pandemic is irresponsible, dangerous and violates international law.

“While the British people are struggling to cope with the pandemic, an economic crisis, violence against women, and racism, the government choses to increase insecurity and threats in the world. This is toxic masculinity on display.

“While the majority of the world’s nations are leading the way to a safer future without nuclear weapons by joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the United Kingdom is pushing for a dangerous new nuclear arms race.”

In a further statement, the organisation suggested the UK would face censure at the next NPT review conference, which is due to take place in August at the United Nations.

“The United Kingdom is legally obligated under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to pursue disarmament. States will meet soon to review the NPT’s success and when they do, the UK will have to answer for its actions,” the statement said.”

Jon Stone, The Independent

Event Question(s):

While reviewing the Integrated Review Policy document, presented to Parliament, I noticed that the image on the cover page was credited to Tim Peake (UK Astronaut)/ESA/NASA. I am assuming this is a nod to two key elements in the policy offered (Cyber and Space defence) – particularly Space defence plans. I also recently (23rd March) attended an online Freeman, Airbus, and KCL event chaired by Dr Sophy Antrobus – showcasing the inaugural ‘UK Space Commander’ (Air Commodore Paul Godfrey) speaking with the Director of ‘Space UK’ (MoD) – AVM Harv Smyth. There was mention of a 1.4 billion investment, and an upcoming Wilton Park event to seek to negotiate norms agreements.

“Commenting on the need for public space awareness as part of an approach to deterrence, AVM Godfrey called for a re-think on how information is classified:

“The space domain remains highly classified…deterrence comes about when we can tell people about what capabilities there are and what is happening up there…what we need to do…is…start to look at where can talk to…the general public in terms of why we are doing certain things”

He went on to emphasise a greater public understanding of the extent to which we rely on space in our daily lives:

“There’s so much more to space than just the military side…our normal lives…are dominated by space, by GPS, by communications, satellite TV, timing, all sorts of things, we need to understand that side of it.”

Space was forefront in the recently announced UK Integrated Review of defence and foreign policy, Harv Smyth commented:

“This IR has been an inflection point for us, it’s given us the stage to really land the narrative about space, to really get formal and overt recognition for the domain…no different from how we treat air, land, maritime, cyber.

“I’m starting to see people wake up to the importance of it…The PM is very clear on his ambition for where we go with space and how we utilise it as a nation that sees itself as an R&D superpower by 2030.”

He also discussed the growing influence of commercial space use:

“There is as much a role to play for commercial as there is for military or governments…as we see more and more the commercialisation of space and big companies batting at a level that is equivalent to a state…it won’t be long before we see [commercial organisations] have as much of a say in what goes on up there as a state would.””

KCL News Centre

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present

and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system — ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

President Eisenhower, 1961

It was apparent, from the Integrated Review document and other recent critiques online, that this foreign, security (and development…) policy is firmly classical Realist/Neoliberal (free market capitalist) and places technology and trade power over people and human rights. There is also evidence of ‘war-posturing’ (in the increase of nuclear warheads) which appears tone-deaf in light of the upcoming 10th non-proliferation treaty review (and recent Nobel Peace Prize win for ICAN). This is very clearly a self-interested, isolationist, militaristic, patriarchal framing of UK security – which feels like a missed opportunity (post-Brexit) to carve out a (global peace-seeking, and collaborative…) leadership stance. For example, ‘Feminist Foreign Policy‘ would have been a more contemporary and successful leadership approach. This has already proven to be successful against the risks of Covid-19, and economic decline. It prioritises the marginalized and most vulnerable, to ensure a truly democratic and equitable system – whilst also prioritising peaceful/anti-war initiatives.

“FFP is more than throwing a few women or people of colour into political leadership and calling it a day. It is oriented towards a complete systemic overhaul of politics as we know it. It is not necessarily easy work and requires introspection and self-reflection about the way in which UK foreign policy is paradoxical as, for example, it funds peacekeeping initiatives to resolve conflict while selling arms which fuel that very conflict in the first place. Colonial legacies in particular are held front and centre under the microscope of FFP as something that has been deeply harmful on a large scale and is in need of reparations.

So what can we do today to set the UK on a path towards a more sustainably peaceful world? The first step to thinking about UK policy under an FFP framework involves a feminist analysis of power and asking for any given issue area, ‘Who has power?’ ‘Who does not?’ ‘Why do these dynamics exist?’ This analytical exercise begins to peel back the surface layers of political agendas and exposes vulnerability, sites of exploitation and patriarchal patterns. Once this information is gathered, the second step involves reimagining the goal of all current policy as achieving solidarity, justice and equality. How would trade policy change if it was less concerned with capital and more concerned with protecting exploited workers’ rights? How do ideas about security and the arms trade change if we seek to stand in true solidarity with victims of conflict?”

Marissa Conway, The Foreign Policy Centre

“Relatedly, as countries such as Sweden pursue an explicitly feminist foreign policy, another possible area of future research could examine the factors necessary for effective implementation of a feminist foreign policy. A feminist foreign policy has two central policy goals, according to Jolynn Shoemaker and Sahana Dharmapuri: gender parity (increased opportunities for women in leadership positions) and gender sensitivity (examining the impact of foreign policies in terms of perpetuating or alleviating gender inequality). A feminist foreign policy is one that “prioritizes the full implementation of international and national commitments to advance human rights—that includes gender equality” (Shoemaker & Dharmapuri, 2016). Such a foreign policy engages with civil society, namely women activists, as well as a policy that offers opportunities in leadership positions for men who endorse and promote gender equality (Shoemaker & Dharmapuri, 2016). A feminist foreign policy goes beyond gender mainstreaming: “it contains a normative reorientation of foreign policy that is guided by an ethically informed framework based on broad cosmopolitan norms of global justice and peace” (emphasis added; Aggestam & Bergman-Rosamond, 2016, p. 323). But a tension arises, as Jacqui True observes, between a feminist foreign policy focused on peace and justice, and a foreign policy that may include the use of military force. She notes that this leads to “a fundamental contradiction from a feminist perspective. How is it possible to sell arms (when, regardless of whom you first sell them to, they often end up perpetrating crimes) and at the same time promote a humanitarian, human rights approach to foreign policy?” (True, 2015). Consequently, another avenue of research could focus on how to resolve this tension and achieve a feminist foreign policy.”

Kristen P. Williams
  1. Why is the UK Tory Govt, led by Boris Johnson, embarking on this ‘war-posturing’ stance, in the current context (post-Trump Presidency/Post-Covid-19, and with significant international instability ongoing with other Nuclear powers) – surely, showing (moral, ethical, and political) leadership would result in re-doubling efforts towards ‘non-proliferation’..? Also, why the reduction in transparency: “The UK will also stop publishing figures on the size of the nuclear stockpile, operational warheads and deployed missiles.” (Parliament Brief)
  2. How are you/we framing ‘resilience’: “Recognising that Covid will not be the last global crisis of the 2020s, the review places an increased emphasis on st[r]engthening security and building national resilience.” (Parliament Brief)
  3. Boris Johnson’s UK Govt claims to be ‘continuing to lead’ on human rights and “driving forward campaigns for girls’ education and religious and media freedom”, in this Review – yet this appears to be presented as an ‘after-thought’ rather than a core commitment (which it should be). For example: How can we credibly seek to show leadership in Cyber defence, when we are still not adequately addressing or leading on the widespread global problem of toxic masculinity, and violence against women online..? Security/Defence for who..? The patriarchal state..? It isn’t enough to ‘host’ international summits this year (which are frequently hosted by rotation/long-term agreements) – one actually has to make, and keep commitments on these matters. Perhaps we should not be surprised by this lack of coherence on human rights, given recent attempts to remove the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights (as a related issue to Brexit).
  4. Relatedly, the commitment to increasing counter-terror policing forces – joined up thinking appears to be missing. This is happening at a time when the UK (and to some extent, the USA) is broadening the definition of ‘terrorist’ and ‘extremist’ to include ‘protestors’ and ‘activists’ (predominantly women, children/Young People, and other marginalised/vulnerable communities). This has been a key approach of Priti Patel (UK Home Secretary), and recent events have given us a glimpse of such ‘policing’ in the UK…This suggests the UK Govt has no interest in protecting the human rights, of at least half, of our population. This is a contradictory/incompatible position to hold – regarding security and human rights. The Review is full of such contradictions.
  5. A WE Forum report highlighted, in 2017, that young people (globally) fear climate change and poverty as much as they fear terrorism. Yet, the UK Govt party that brought us their ‘Austerity Policy’ (since 2008), and what appears to be further austerity measures (post-Covid) – has taken a stance which prioritises free markets over wider climate security (for everyone), and which criminalises a fundamentally youth-led climate social justice movement (using counter-terror measures and policing). The ‘green finance’ (industrial revolution) recently touted by this government, spotlights Leeds and London as future ‘global leaders/hubs’. I can say, as a native of Leeds, and as someone currently living in that city – we do not wish to become another ‘San Francisco/Silicon Valley’. Anyone who has visited San Francisco knows it has enjoyed tech and finance investment, whilst significantly increasing the poverty gap. Leeds is already a city which has an increasingly widening poverty gap. The city – which is a national/regional finance, comms, cultural, and agricultural ‘Northern Powerhouse’ – has also made the news as a leader in ‘period poverty’ (since 2018). Women and children (school-aged children particularly) have faced the difficult choice of getting food basics, or sanitary products. “Covid poverty: ‘You either have sanitary pads or a loaf of bread’” was one recent BBC headline. How is the ‘green finance revolution’ going to improve the situation of many families in the UK, or enable us to withstand further insecurity/risks/threats to life..?

“One reason that such a high proportion of students may have selected international terrorism as the most pressing issue facing Europe may have been the timing of our research. Students were surveyed in spring 2016, soon after attacks in Paris. In the month following the attacks, the children’s helpline, Childline, reported a surge in calls from young people anxious about the possibility of a similar attack in Britain. Previous research has also found that people tend to prioritise threats that are physically and temporally close to them.

Terrorist attacks may also be seen as more threatening in general because they have clear perpetrators. By contrast no one group or individual can be blamed for climate change, making it seem less tangible as a threat. This is, of course, hugely problematic considering the large body of evidence that shows that climate change is already happening, and that other threats such as international terrorism may be linked to the disruption caused by global warming.

In the context of research on the threats to Europe – in which international terrorism routinely tops the list of concerns – the surprising finding from our survey is that such a high proportion of Year 13 students considered climate change to be a pressing issue, more so than found in some studies of adults’ views.

A recent YouGov survey found that Britons are among the least concerned in the world about climate change, with only 12.8% selecting it as their most pressing issue. Considering that 18% of people aged 17 to 18-years-old in our 2016 survey believed it to be the most important issue facing Europe, and that the older the students were, the more likely they were to prioritise climate change, it seems that attitudes may be changing among the next generation of young adults.”

Rhian Barance, WE Forum

“War causes climate change. Climate change causes war.”

Brian Larkin, Rethinking Security

“According to the Scottish Greens, it was “exceptionally dangerous” to transport nuclear warheads across Scotland by road. “Given these convoys travel through heavily populated areas, the implications of a safety breach would be catastrophic,” said the party’s external affairs spokesperson, Ross Greer.

“This latest UK Government announcement will mean more convoys with more dangerous materials passing through Scotland’s towns and cities, despite the clear opposition of our population.”

The Ferret reported in January that 22 nuclear warheads were transported from England to Scotland in eight convoys during 2020. Convoys are tracked and filmed by activists, and often travel close to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham.

We also revealed in May 2018 that safety problems plaguing the convoys had risen to a record high. The total number of incidents logged by the MoD over 10 years was 179.”

Rob Edwards, The National

“Sunak devoted a scant two minutes of his budget speech to government plans to reach net zero emissions, in which he promised “green” growth, innovation or jobs seven times. However, there was no mention of measures to accelerate the take up of electric vehicles or the green homes grant, a scheme to subsidise insulation and low-carbon heating with grants of up to £10,000 per household.

Sunak also kept fuel duty frozen for the 11th year in a row, which is likely to raise emissions by 300,000 tonnes this year. The freeze is also estimated to have cost the Treasury at least £50bn in revenue so far. Carbon dioxide from transport, which makes up more than a third of the UK’s emissions, has barely budged in the past decade as gains from people switching to electric vehicles have been more than wiped out by increasing numbers of people driving SUVs.

Green experts said the budget failed to bolster the UK’s green reputation ahead of the presidency of the G7 summit this summer and as host of vital UN climate talks, called Cop26, this November, and showed little sign of the “muscular interventionism” needed to spur a green recovery.

Nick Mabey, the chief executive of the environmental thinktank E3G, said: “Ahead of Cop26, this budget was a missed opportunity by failing to set out an unequivocal direction of travel towards a green zero carbon future. The chancellor has dropped the green recovery ball before the try line.”

Harvey and Ambrose, The Guardian

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for learning, skills and employment said:

“It is a damning indictment of our society if girls are left in the position of not being able to afford sanitary protection, leading to them missing school or even meals.

“Child poverty is rising and we have a duty to mitigate its impact as much as possible, I would like to thank Carr Manor Community School, the University of Leeds and The Children’s Society for agreeing to work with us as we try and find a solution to what, quite frankly, should not be a problem in this city.””

Leeds.Gov News, 2018

The 2018 reference above may seem distant and irrelevant now, but remember – that was pre-Covid-19. The issues have become far worse for many now. One can only hope these issues will be explored in the upcoming inaugural West Yorkshire Mayoral Election (May, 2021) – as whoever takes that position may hold significant political and financial power, in the coming years, given the ongoing fragmentation of the UK and this new financial investment in the region.

This Review appears to ignore the security concerns of the majority of the population, in favour of narrow, defensive, reactionary, militaristic, self-interest. I don’t see leadership here. I see a tired response, returning us back to a Cold War 2.0 mentality. I also see a lot of talk about gaining and exerting state power, with little or no regard for ‘how’ that power is used or harnessed to improve the global situation. Rights are only relevant when they are coupled with responsibilities (to others). It appears unlikely to bring about a more secure future for anyone, least of all the UK. What is the impact on the Euro-Atlantic relationship..? A negative impact, as this Review and policy move makes the world less safe – at a time of great insecurity and instability.

“As a response to the worsening global security environment and technological advances, such as those made by Russia and China, it makes sense for the United Kingdom — with a relatively small nuclear arsenal to begin with — to increase the size of its nuclear stockpile and rely more heavily on strategic ambiguity. Nonetheless, it comes at an unfortunate time for the international nuclear order and British nuclear diplomacy. The government will have to work across Whitehall to try to rebuild the United Kingdom’s credibility as a leader in transparency and disarmament going into the 2021 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. This will not be an easy task.

Nothing can likely save the conference from the polarization that has defined it in recent years. The United Kingdom’s new stockpile ceiling will not be the thing that leads to failure at the upcoming gathering. But it certainly doesn’t help. What really matters here is that the United Kingdom, a leader in nuclear disarmament among the nuclear possessors, perceives the security environment to have become so much worse that it chose to increase its nuclear stockpile amidst growing pressure to disarm. It perceives the technological landscape to be increasingly dangerous, and would jeopardize its leadership on nuclear transparency in response. These are worrying trends indeed that should be a wakeup call to the changing nature of strategic threats. A change in the stockpile should say more about the security landscape than it does about U.K. nuclear warheads, but that remains a difficult story to sell.”

Heather Williams

“Stewart McDonald, the defence spokesman for the Scottish National party, which is opposed to Trident renewal, accused the government of being wedded to an outdated defence policy: “For the prime minister to stand up and champion the international rules-based system before announcing in the same breath that the UK plans to violate its commitments to the international treaty on non-proliferation beggars belief.””

Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian
Friends of Europe online event, 30th March 2021

Live event notes:

Bew (Special Advisor to PM Johnson):

  • With the ‘IR’ (Integrated Review) the UK was seeking to define – ‘Global Britain’ – as it was a bit ‘mangled in the Brexit process’…
  • 3 audiences intended: Strategic (more than predecessor), British people (how use resources, and intentions of domestic/national agenda), International partners and allies (waiting for our national position).
  • 1st/biggest issue for partners and friends (NATO, collective security, defence spending is biggest since the Cold War). Two biggest changes are regarding visa/immigration – Human rights and democracy..?
  • High ambition for G7 & COP26 events – first time setting up strategic pillars (4): strategic collaboration with allies (science & tech), shaping open international order (need for more pro-activity, re digital econ, etc.), strengthening defence and security, strengthening resilience (defined more thoroughly in the document: strengthen the global health system, focus on climate change (COP26 and beyond)).



  • Security angles – not a classic defence review – is a fully integrated approach (we think that’s what we need).
  • Also an issue of protection – who might want access to our science & tech..?
  • The industry is moving to a more collaborative stance (across geographical boundaries).
  • Unequivocal support for Euro-Atlantic security.
  • We would love to change the world alone – but collaboration is necessary.
  • Future conflict – space and cyber are considered key targets..?
  • ‘Persistent engagement’ – defence as ongoing continuum…?
  • FCDO‘…conscious decision to combine the departments.
  • Thinking about resilience in a different way now: “whole of society approach…security is something everyone owns”. “Comes from alliances, partnerships, relationships..”.

Jamie Shea (participant):

  • Inspires 2 big questions – Global Britain existed for a long time (pre-brexit): How do you redefine it, when it already exists..? What capabilities did Bew think we were losing..?
  • Question to Job: What is the trade-off between quantity and quality (tech and mass)..?

Gottemoeller offered some comments, but at that point I was focused on commenting in the online live chat/quickly formulating a question/statement for other attendees/participants. So, unfortunately I missed it. It should be possible to listen to Gottemoeller, and the whole event, online.

In summary, as highlighted above, this is certainly not a truly ‘integrated’ review of a ‘global and competitive Britain’. It is clear to many (now…) that we are strategically, and economically poorer post-Brexit – in an increasingly unstable and insecure world. This foreign and defence review is not representative of a modern United Kingdom. It is concerned with a very narrow, traditional, Realist perspective of security, which is ignorant of other well established critical (feminist) conceptual views of security – which take a truly global and all encompassing approach to security and development. This Review also appears to fundamentally ignore the international, long-fought for, developments in views on human rights and security (“Women’s rights are Human rights” – Hilary Clinton, Beijing Conference, 1995). It is short-sighted, tone-deaf, militaristic, and focused on corporate profit (over wider social and economic reform(s)). This ‘IR’ does not make the UK, or anyone else for that matter, safer in the short or long term. Another missed opportunity. Somewhat reminiscent of one of Rimmer’s ‘morale meetings’, in tone…

Morale Meeting in Space


Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy – GOV.UK (

Global Britain in a competitive age (Policy Brief PDF)

Defence in a competitive age (Policy Brief PDF)

Integrated Review 2021: emerging defence technologies – House of Commons Library (

Integrated Review 2021 – House of Commons Library (

Response to UK Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy – Grantham Research Institute on climate change and the environment (

UK Integrated Review 2021 | RUSI

The UK’s Integrated Review: How Does It Stack Up? | RUSI

The Integrated Review of UK Foreign Policy: 10 Key Insights – British Foreign Policy Group (

Integrated Review 2021: Summary – House of Commons Library (

ELN responds to the 2021 UK Integrated Review of security, defence, development and foreign policy | European Leadership Network

What does the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy mean for the UK? | The Institute for Government

Green economy could create 100,000 jobs in West Yorkshire – Leeds Live (

Sustainability, net-zero, and the green economy | Divisions | University of Leeds

Leeds chosen as home of new national infrastructure bank in drive for ‘green industrial revolution’

Green economy: how the transition to net-zero could affect UK jobs across the country – Grantham Research Institute on climate change and the environment (

How Yorkshire manufacturers can lead Britain’s green economic recovery | Yorkshire Post

Bank of England given green remit to aid net zero carbon goal | Budget 2021 | The Guardian

Does Solving The Climate Crisis Require Antiracist Feminist Leadership? (

Many young people fear climate change and poverty, as much as they fear terrorism | World Economic Forum (

Britain ‘heading for new era of austerity’, thinktank warns | Tax and spending | The Guardian

Covid poverty: ‘You either have sanitary pads or a loaf of bread’ – BBC News

Leeds to tackle period poverty head on

What will the British people make of the Integrated Review of UK Foreign Policy? – British Foreign Policy Group (

The UK’s Integrated Review: Seeing Through a Glass Darkly | RUSI

The Integrated Review: Technology, Not People, Is the UK’s Finest Asset | RUSI

Boris Johnson ‘violating international law’ with plan to build more nuclear weapons | The Independent

Behind the ‘secret’ rise in nuclear weapons on the Clyde by UK Government | The National

U.K. Nuclear Weapons: Beyond the Numbers – War on the Rocks

Cap on Trident nuclear warhead stockpile to rise by more than 40% | Trident | The Guardian

Avalon Project – Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961 (

Sarah Everard: How a woman’s death sparked a nation’s soul-searching – BBC News

Non-violent groups on UK counter-terror list threaten legal action | Extinction Rebellion | The Guardian

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office Blogs: A unique insight into UK foreign and development policy (

The Beijing Platform for Action: inspiration then and now | UN Women – Beijing+20

Beijing: 25 Years Later – Ms. Magazine

‘Post-patriarchal security’, FoE

The British Army and an Integrated Review – Think Defence

UK-defence-report.pdf (

What does the UK’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy mean for Euro-Atlantic cooperation? – Friends of Europe

Global Britain Statement: 16/06/2020 – what time is it on TV? Cast list and preview. (

Gallery | Red Dwarf – The Official Website

Non-violent protest, state security, and the ‘supernatural’ case of Helen Duncan – Adventures Through The Looking Glass & ‘At the Gates’ (

Cambridge Analytica & ‘The West Wing’ Campaign – Adventures Through The Looking Glass & ‘At the Gates’ (

(194) The UK’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy impact on Europe – YouTube

(194) British Spacepower and the Integrated Review: Launch of a new paper – YouTube

(194) In Conversation with the UK’s Leading Space Commanders – YouTube

Freeman Air and Space Institute (

Feminist Foreign Policy – CFFP (

How a ‘feminist’ foreign policy would change the world (

A feminist foreign policy: What would it mean for the UK? – The Foreign Policy Centre (

Feminism in Foreign Policy | Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Feminist FP for the USA

Psychotherapists struggling with climate change and PTSD in treatment

UN Women Climate Activists

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