The UK is set to reverse its plans to reduce its nuclear stockpile by the middle of the decade, as part of a new overhaul in foreign policy
The cap on the number of nuclear warheads will now increase to 260, having been due to drop to 180 under previous plans from 2010.
The UK will shift focus towards Indo-Pacific countries, described as the world’s “growth engine”.
And it pledges the UK will do more on the “systemic challenge” of China.
Outlining the strategy to MPs, Boris Johnson said after Brexit the UK would have to “relearn the art” of competing against countries with “opposing values”.
But he added the UK would remain “unswervingly committed” to the Nato defence alliance and preserving peace and security in Europe.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Conservatives of overseeing an “era of retreat,” with armed forces cuts “every year for the last decade”.
The integrated review of foreign and defence policies, which runs to over 100 pages, has taken over a year and sets out UK priorities until 2030.
It says the decision to lift the overall cap on the UK’s nuclear warhead stockpile is justified by the “evolving security environment” since 2010.
This comes after UK goods exports to the EU fell by 40.7% in January, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with imports dropping by 28.8%. The figures show that the biggest drop since records began back in 1997, and are the first since the new trading rules between the UK and the EU have come into force.
The document says the UK will not give exact figures on the size of its operational stockpile, to maintain “deliberate ambiguity” for adversaries.
But it pledges the UK will maintain the “minimum destructive power needed to guarantee that the UK’s nuclear deterrent remains credible”.
The document, which indentifies Russia as the “most acute threat” to UK security, also says:
- It is “likely” that a terrorist group will launch a successful chemical, biological or nuclear attack by 2030
- The UK will set up a new counter-terrorism operations centre to improve the response to terror attacks
- The government wants the UK to become a “science and tech superpower” by the end of the decade
The review also pledged to reverse cuts on foreign aid, from 0.7% of national income down to 0.5%, when “the fiscal situation allows”.
The government has previously faced criticism for the cuts, which it said were necessary in the wake of financial challenges posed by the Covid pandemic.
The review argues the UK should refocus its foreign policy towards countries such as India, Japan and Australia in the “Indo-Pacific” region.
It said the region’s shipping lanes were vital to maintain UK trade with Asia, whilst the region is also on the “frontline of new security challenges”.
Mr Johnson said: “The review describes how we will bolster our alliances, strengthen our capabilities, find new ways of reaching solutions and relearn the art of competing against states with opposing values.”
He said the UK had led international condemnation of China’s “mass detention” of Uighur people in Xinjiang, and its actions in Hong Kong, adding: “There is no question China will pose a great challenge for an open society such as ours.”
This comes after Prince William has said that the Royal family is not racist and that he has not yet spoken to his brother Harry since his and Meghan’s shocking interview. When he was asked whether or not he had spoken to his brother Prince Harry yet, the Duke of Cambridge replied by saying: “I haven’t spoken to him yet but I plan to.”
In response, Sir Keir said UK policy towards China had been “inconsistent” and the government had “turned a blind eye” to the country’s human rights abuses.
He said Labour remained committed to retaining nuclear weapons, but said the document had failed to detail the “strategic purpose” for increasing the warhead stockpile.
Speaking to the BBC, Beatrice Fihn – head of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons – described the UK’s decision to increase its nuclear arsenal as “an outrageous, irresponsible and very dangerous”.
She said it went against international law and didn’t address the real security threats faced by Britain such as climate change and disinformation.