Boris Johnson has agreed a £25m security package with Australia, with the prime minister saying the deal represents “forging a new partnership from a historic alliance”.
Mr Johnson spoke to his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on Wednesday evening to sign off on further bilateral cooperation between London and Canberra.
It comes a matter of months after the UK, Australia and the US signed up to the AUKUS pact, an agreement to develop nuclear-powered submarines for Canberra as part of efforts to increase joint naval activity in the Indo-Pacific region.
The UK and Australia are the closest of friends and historic allies.
Tonight Prime Minister @ScottMorrisonMP and I agreed to strengthen the partnership between our nations, making it fit for the next century and grounded in our shared priorities on security, democracy and trade. pic.twitter.com/z5F7HGmiac
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 16, 2022
“The UK and Australia are working together to enhance regional security in the Indo-Pacific, drive innovation in science and green technology and boost opportunities for our businesses and citizens,” Mr Johnson said.
“Our nations are forging a new partnership from a historic alliance, fit for the next century and grounded in our shared priorities on security, democracy and free and fair trade.”
What will the deal involve?
Downing Street has said the deal will see the UK commit £25m to projects in the region designed to “strengthen resilience in cyberspace, state threats and maritime security”.
Both PMs are expected to agree to increase cooperation in science and technology through a new Science Partnership Series.
Australian fintech company PEXA will expand into the UK as its first international market, while UK energy firm Octopus will create a greenfield renewables project.
Government officials say the aim is to try and position the UK as the “European partner of choice in the Indo-Pacific”, while Mr Johnson will be hoping to build upon the free trade deal between the two nations which was sealed in December.
The defence and foreign policy integrated review, published last year, announced a “tilt” towards the region and more UK involvement.
As part of this shift in focus, aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth was deployed in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia in the second half of 2021.
Labour say PM’s focus should be closer to home
Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey accused the PM of “trying to buy good headlines” with the announcement.
“This £25m ‘deal’ is worth ten times less than the annual budget for the National Cyber Security Centre and 12 times less than the cost of a new frigate,” he said.
“While we value our partnership with Australia, defence priorities must be directed by where the threats are, not where the business opportunities might be.
“While the prime minister’s focus is the Indo-Pacific, the grave Russian threats around Ukraine forcefully remind us about the security imperatives in our own backyard.”