David Cameron has taken a swipe at Boris Johnson’s decision to merge the Foreign Office and the overseas aid agency DfiD, saying it’s a “mistake” that will lead to “less respect” being shown to Britain abroad.
Cameron, who served as prime minister between 2010 and 2016, expressed his objections to the move on Twitter, moments after Johnson addressed lawmakers in the House of Commons on Tuesday to confirm the major shake-up of Britain’s foreign-policy priorities.
The former Tory leader conceded that more needs to be done to coordinate policy across the two areas, but suggested the merger would have detrimental consequences for overseas development and the amount of influence Britain has on the world stage.
More could and should be done to coordinate aid and foreign policy, including through the National Security Council, but the end of @DFID_UK will mean less expertise, less voice for development at the top table and ultimately less respect for the UK overseas.
Johnson revealed that the new department will be called the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – which will be headed by Foreign Secretary Domininic Raab – is expected to be formed by the autumn. He also specifically mentioned a desire to help countries “vulnerable to Russian meddling” in his comments about the new office’s focus.
The announcement provoked a fairly damning response on social media and from a number of UK politicians. Chris Rossdale, a lecturer at Bristol University who writes about militarism, claimed that the “Arms trade, extractive industries, engineering firms, all stand to profit” from the merger. He also suggested that it would allow “for a more joined-up approach to British extortion and corruption.”
Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell – who was Cameron’s international development secretary, labeled the merger as “an extraordinary mistake.” Others online highlighted that there were many strongly-held views either way on the merger, but that “no one in govt should be wasting time rearranging deckchairs right now.”
Cameron’s intervention didn’t exactly receive a glowing response on social media though, with one commenter suggesting that his “contributions are as welcome as those of Tony Blair.”
The UK government is set to maintain its statutory commitment to spending 0.7 percent of gross national income on overseas aid. Johnson said that it was now up to Raab to decide “which countries receive – or cease to receive – British aid.”
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