The four-year Defence deal secures a £4bn (10%) annual increase in spending. It received bi-partisan support; though concerns about long-term funding through tax increases were expressed. The Treasury may divert funds from the annual foreign aid budget, decreasing it from 0.7 to 0.5% of GNI. This follows a £2.9bn cut following debt reaching 100.5% of GDP during Coronavirus lockdowns. Chancellor Sunak seeks to instantiate these changes during the continually-suspended economic recovery period. This decision also follows the indefinite delay of the cross-government spending review.
The funding will create a National Cyber Force to conduct digital offensive operations, a Space Command for interstellar excursions from 2022, and an AI research agency. The funding may also be a preventative measure, following Ministry of Defence reports warning that, from 2030, projected climate effects could strain resources, intensify operations and accelerate equipment degradation. This would result in additional costs added to the existing £13bn equipment budget shortfall. As ongoing conflicts, like Nagorno-Karabakh, demonstrate, modern warfare is an increasingly automated affair, and predicated on cost-effective calculation. The Tories’ funding may be a pre-emptive attempt to alleviate prospective debt, whilst keeping Britain competitive on the world stage with the Roosevelt principle of soft speech and a big stick.
Domesticating manufacturing (as recorded in America) can reduce emissions during goods production by 80%. If additional defence funding repatriates British weapons and equipment manufacturing, this is both an economically expedient, and environmentally sustainable move. British governance always devolves into arguments over how to spend taxpayer’s money; never if it should be spent. Though lessening state intervention in private citizens’ pocketbooks should be a priority, the Conservatives’ itinerary, as it stands, is slow to adopt this libertarian approach. Thus, diverting funding from foreign aid to domestic security, with net benefits for emissions reduction and job security, is a step in the right direction.
The purpose of defence spending, however, should be questioned; particularly in this period of economic crisis. If Joe Biden becomes President Elect once election fraud lawsuits subside, Israeli ministers have expressed concerns that his Iran Nuclear Deal approach could revert the United States back to failed interventionalist foreign policy in the region. Since 2018 the resource-rich nation saw an over 14% decline in GDP, and widespread protests against the sitting President’s murder of opposition voices. Hawkish forces across the pond could look to exploit this instability. With the Tories and Democrats unified in their ‘Build Back Better’ sloganeering, the British public should remain apprehensive that we don’t share the outmoded neo-liberal ambition of being world police.
This coincides with the release of the Conservatives’ ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ scheme reveal. It aims to ‘eradicating [the UK’s] contribution to climate change by 2050’ through a ten-point plan. It involves investment in diversifying Britain’s power grid, by incorporating greater production by wind turbines, hydrogen stations, and nuclear power. It aims to create a clean transport network, with upgrades to overground rail, increased access for cycling and pedestrians, and investment in manufacturing and infrastructure for electric vehicles. Carbon capture and cleaner air and shipping networks aim to make Britain a clean manufacturing and export capital. The £2bn Green Homes Grant voucher scheme has been extended till March 2022 to encourage energy efficient retrofitting for properties. Wilderness rejuvenation strategies attempt to repopulate UK woodland; hopefully, using sustainable and natural methods, as industry voices have called for.
The financial viability of these aspirational £12bn innovations has raised eyebrows, given Britain’s precarious economic predicament. Monthly redundancies doubled; the pace of recovery is decreasing; manufacturing is 9.2% below February’s rate; 80% of households report income loss over lockdown. Expensive, transformative schemes—large enough the Prime Minister has to reiterate that he’s ‘not a communist’—are anathema to working people, whose primary concerns are income and resource reliability. Government intervention, tax-dependent subsidies, and disruptive restructuring of the economy could discourage small business creation, local high-street revitalisation, and corporate investment in the country during our crucial recovery period.
Messaging is also concerning. Talk of a ‘fourth industrial resolution’, alongside Biden, and Prime Ministers of Canada and New Zealand all reciting ‘Build Back better’, sounds eerily derivative of Klaus Schwab’s ‘Great Reset’ initiative and ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ book. Schwab, at the World Economic Forum, proposed to consolidate the powers of multinational monopolies—enriched by the COVID crisis—with unelected international oversight bodies (like the UN, WTO, WHO, etc.) to create a conglomerate of ‘global stakeholders’. Their aim? To enforce an ‘[anti-]individualism’ agenda, through planned economy policies which supersede national sovereignty. He praised China’s ‘specific governmental structure’ for its ability to ‘recover quickly from the [COVID-19] crisis’, suggesting replication of its tyranny would be desirable to achieve the Reset’s aims of equitable economic outcomes. It’s even been pushed as a “vaccine” for a predicted ‘cyber pandemic’: the threat of economic crisis caused by cyber-attacks on global finance and communication. This would explain the cyber-security and AI research departments created by the UK’s new defence spending.
Income tax cuts on loans for qualified green industries could aid economic and ecological recovery, and also have the private sector pick up slack where foreign aid wanes. They would incentivise private sector investment in Britain’s emerging green technologies, whilst also instantiating cross-border tax reciprocity for replication of clean economic innovation in developing nations. Renewables are already the highest priority for investors under 50. The Green Bonds market expanded despite COVID-related economic downturn. More market-based environmental solutions should be adopted, if the government’s intention is in fact to ‘make the City of London the global centre of green finance’, and not actually to acquiesce to oligarchic schemes of trans-national technocrats in Davos. In this time of economic crisis, Britain’s ambitions should restrict the scope of sustainable reconstruction to within our island’s borders.
By Connor Tomlinson, Policy Director at the British Conservation Alliance