Sorting by


Minister for Indo-Pacific Anne -Marie Trevelyan delivers keynote speech at First Sea Lord’s Sea Power Conference 2023

Thank you to the Council on Geostrategy for bringing us together through the lens of the First Sea Lord’s annual conference to discuss the challenges of maritime security in its many guises in this growing challenging global environment.

Good morning to everyone here, and I know a wider but equally august crowd online. It’s always great to see Lancaster House being put to good use in bringing great minds together from military and academic to industrial leaders…. As well as the pomp and ceremony it was part of for the coronation celebrations just a few days ago.

It is always a pleasure to welcome our French colleagues and Admiral Vandier to the place where the Lancaster House Treaties have been negotiated over decades.

As an island nation and a global trading power, the UK is constantly focused on the seas and oceans – since Queen Elizabeth the First we have made use of the global waterways for our prosperity, and have been leaders in ensuring we can defend them for our security, and for the peace and freedom of many others.

Day to day, as over a third of the UK’s food is imported, the protection of maritime trade routes has a direct effect on all our daily lives – and perhaps we don’t do enough to ensure that our citizens really understand the importance of the Royal Navy’s daily workload.

Globally, 3 billion people rely on the sea for their food security: more than ever, this now brings new levels of challenge around responsible stewardship of the marine habitats that sustain us, with the need for protein which nations with growing young populations need.

As we provide leadership in the protection of sustainable ocean habitats, we are also charged with supporting those smaller nations for whom defending and protecting their EEZs – exclusive economic zones which sovereign states under UNCLOS have sovereign rights over the exploration and use of marine resources.

This is proving less than straightforward when faced with those large distant fishing fleets who don’t share or respect their responsibilities.

In my recent visit to the Philippines, I was struck by the challenges felt from the groups of Chinese militia boats gathered overfishing shoal waters, leaving local fishermen facing daily intimidation.

The maritime domain is under increasing pressure from systemic competition, driven by resource needs, and is facing levels of threat and coercion not seen since World War II. I believe that its therefore right to say we are entering a ‘new maritime century’.

The reality is that maritime protection needs have never gone away, but rather that we have should always have remained focused on the maritime.

With constrained defence budgets, and post the fall of the Berlin Wall, which brought a naïve assumption of peaceful times ahead, followed by land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the maritime domain has been quietly getting on with its job without as much attention as it needed.

Our Royal Navy continues to make us proud as the great guardian of our nation’s security near and far, and is respected and welcomed around the globe by our friends and allies. The expertise and trust which others place in our sailors continues to be a powerful deterrent to those who would flout the laws of the sea.

The Royal Navy guards our national security and wider maritime stability – the leading European nation in NATO, bringing our Continuous At Sea Deterrent submarine enterprise to the defence of all, and forging the alliances and partnerships around the world that make us all safer and protect our ways of life.

The threats we face today and in the years ahead may seem diverse and far away, but they are all interconnected. It is vital if we are to continue to maintain freedom of navigation for

that we build and deliver multi-pronged strategies.

Threats to global supply chains, the militarisation of the seas, and the erosion of global norms like freedom of navigation are more real than perhaps many of our UK citizens can imagine in our calm European waters.

The degradation of fish stocks, and the precariousness of maritime livelihoods has the potential to wreak havoc with many nations’ basic ability to feed their people. The fair management and sustainable harvesting of the sea’s resources is critical to maintaining peaceful, thriving communities.

The region which poses the greatest opportunity but also risks to UK interests is the Indo-Pacific.

For too many here in Europe, this seems far away and can be ignored in order to focus on supporting Ukraine which is much closer to home. But that misses the point of the indivisibility of the Euro-Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific to global challenges.

So to ensure it is those opportunities which prevail, rather than the risks of disturbed or broken sea lanes and the safety of maritime sovereignty, our Naval colleagues all need to work together to ensure the Indo-Pacific remains stable and free together.

This is why the Indo-Pacific is at the heart of our long-term foreign policy strategy, as we restated in our Integrated Review Refresh in March – it is crucial to sustaining free trade, freedom of action, and freedom from coercion.

60% of global shipping passes through the region, for which stability there has a direct impact on households and businesses here. When I am trying to explain to constituents what this all means, it is that the goods we purchase every day, from your washing machine to prawns, come by ship through the South China Seas and wider sea routes. If those routes become blocked, or unsafe for civilian shipping, the economic shocks would be dramatic.

Beyond the present dependencies, more than half of global growth is projected to come from the Indo -Pacific by 2050, so we need to ensure the UK is right at the heart of the region’s successful future – we must be alive to the threats, working with allies to counter them, so that in concert our businesses and people can maximise the UK’s interests and opportunities.

The Indo-Pacific, beyond its growing potential to be an economic powerhouse, is also full of potential for clean energy resources, and the UK wants to be able to continue to bring our world leading expertise in clean energy, from wind to nuclear, to support and help to build sustainable business growth and livelihoods.

So in our agreements and partnerships with nations from Vanuatu to the Republic of Korea, from Bangladesh to Indonesia, the UK is focused on bringing our expertise to support positive impacts in coastal communities, alongside building expertise in marine science, and share educational resources.

But all of this depends on ensuring that the maritime environment for all these Indo-Pacific countries is safe and free from coercive shipping which would restrict their potential in their own waters.

The UK Government’s £500 million Blue Planet Fund is an important part of our leadership on marine issues, supporting developing countries to protect the environment and reduce poverty. It is one of the tools in our armoury to deliver the challenges set out in the Integrated Review Refresh, to tackle biodiversity loss, to halt and reverse plastic pollution, and to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.

This is work which we will deliver most effectively working with our key Naval partners, especially through our Anglo-French alliance set on an even stronger course after our recent Anglo-French summit. These are tough targets because the oceans always have the power to surprise.

As with so many coastal regions, the North Sea – along my constituency’s 64 miles border – is both our friend and our foe. It gives us vast new resources of sustainable offshore wind power, but ferocious storms and the coldest climate in the country. Storm Arwen ripped through my patch in November 2021 and we are even now only seeing normality resume with the opening of the National Park this spring where forestry was devastated.

The ferocity of Storm Arwen took everyone by surprise. But it was nothing compared to that which hit Ukraine last year, as Russia illegally invaded a sovereign neighbour.   And whilst NATO and many other nations from around the world are doing all we can to support the Ukrainian war effort and their humanitarian needs, we should not overlook the maritime challenges the Ukraine crisis has created.

Economically, a secure, stable Black Sea is essential not only to rebuild Ukraine’s future, but because it is the sea lane which provides a vast proportion of the grain and fertiliser needs of East Africa and beyond.

The world needs those exports from the ‘breadbasket of Europe’ to resume and stabilise, alongside Ukraine’s need to deliver to the world for its own economic success.  Trade and security go hand in hand, and it’s our navies who defend and ensure these flows of goods can continue safely.

We should also be much more comfortable in confronting the fact that the strategic link between maritime security in the Euro-Atlantic and in the Indo-Pacific are indivisible.

Where Russian actions flout the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, this provides others with an excuse also to disregard international norms, to ignore the rules-based international system for their benefit, destroying the option of a free and open Indo-Pacific for all.

So as we approach the NATO summit in Vilnius – I know we’re joined by Admiral Gilday and Rear Admiral Skoog Haslum this morning - the increasingly strong demonstration of defence in the Baltic, to deal with the urgent tactical situation we face, needs to demonstrate the capability and intent of those of us determined to defend free, safe and open global waters.

The NATO partnership, through our transatlantic bonds, are keeping more than a billion citizens secure. But the rest of the world’s oceans and seas do not feel free and open to too many of the Indo-Pacific countries I visit week in week out as the UK’s Indo-Pacific minister.

So the UK, as a committed global maritime partner, is finding new ways to bring our expertise and support to the region.  Perhaps the most challenging, exciting and long-term is AUKUS, a trilateral partnership to support the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific.

AUKUS demonstrates how longstanding partners can come together to tackle the new threats. Together with the US and Australia, we are going to build a new global and interoperable nuclear-powered submarine capability, that will not only support a free and open Indo-Pacific, but will also strengthen UK contribution to NATO in Europe.

AUKUS will create the next generation of expert engineers, welders, logisticians, programme managers, data analysts, regulators, and machinists to mention a few, to build these new boats, alongside the need for growth in the number of submariners serving in the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy, with an extensive skill set needed to safely operate nuclear-powered submarines – and we will maximise our impact by creating a shared workforce.

This will bring new well-paid jobs for whole life careers for a growing workforce in Barrow, Plymouth, Rosyth and Faslane in the UK, alongside whole new workforces in Adelaide and Perth in Australia.  This is not without its challenges, and the UK has a leading role to play in ensuring that our commitment to this huge military programme of work is a national endeavour here in the UK.

AUKUS submarines are part of Australia’s defence programme, but the Royal Navy and the UK’s submarine industrial enterprise will be critical to their success.  Not since JFK’s determination to put a man on the moon, and NASA’s all encompassing national focus  – where even the cleaners believed they were integral to the success of the project –  has there been such a challenge to our industries and education systems.

Our universities and schools need to have AUKUS at the heart of their STEM programmes, so that every young person in school today has the chance to choose a lifetime career which is part of AUKUS

  • a global project designed to build submarines – yes,
  • multifaceted activity to collaborate on state-of-the-art advanced military capabilities – yes,

but perhaps most importantly, to grow the capabilities of our allies and partners to support a free and open Indo-Pacific, and, in turn, a more peaceful and prosperous world.

I hope that, by laying the groundwork with our partners now, by investing in the solutions of the future, the threats from Indo-Pacific nations who demonstrate coercive behaviours in those waters, will understand that the UK stands firmly alongside our indo-pacific neighbours to weather any storms.

We must not turn away.

What we must do – given the scale of the challenge – is to come together, in partnership with friends old and new, to deter and defend against threats to maritime stability, and to ensure our strategic advantage in the maritime domain.

Interoperability with our allies will be a core source of strength. Interchangeability will make us stronger still.

Navies need to combine their power with diplomatic support, while our diplomatic efforts need to amplify our willingness and capacity to protect our collective interests, whether in home waters or across the world.

The Navy’s Maritime Domain Awareness Programme is our gold standard for using our security expertise to build trust, partnership and capabilities, including with Middle Ground countries under pressure from revisionist states.

Strong deterrence and joint working are its watchwords.

And so my call to action today is to take the long view. It’s for an end to the ‘seablindness’ that can creep into an ever more complex foreign policy, and for a look into foreign policy priorities in every aspect of the processes of naval planning.

Ultimately, it’s our combined commitment to bring together our collective wisdom, listening to those few with deep expertise in delivery of maritime security through decades of confrontations on and under our oceans.

These challenges are not new, but ensuring success requires that we all lean in to deliver on our commitment. And the rationale for AUKUS is because the Indo-Pacific is a really huge expanse of water. We need more submarine capability providing deterrence in the only stealth environment remaining, across these vast areas.

We will only deliver the pace needed if we make this a national endeavour.  If we don’t get our deterrence posture right, coercion could become aggression all too quickly.

But if we do, we can assure the security and prosperity not only for my constituents, but for all those who are banking on us.

Thank you.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button