Government publishes Integrated Review Refresh 2023: Responding to a more contested and volatile world

Following the 2021 Integrated Review, the Government has now released the Integrated Review Refresh 2023: Responding to a more contested and volatile world. The Refresh updates the Government's Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy priorities to reflect the significant changes in the global context since the Integrated Review was first published in 2021.

In this insight, techUK has summarised the financial commitments contained in the Integrated Review Refresh 2023 (IR23), together with its headline strategic conclusions as well as digital and technology specific commitments.

Financial Commitments

  • The main financial commitment in IR23 is the announcement of a £5bn Defence spending uplift, an addition to the £560m of investment made in Autumn 2022, spread over the next 2 years. £3bn of the spending uplift will go to towards the modernisation of the UK’s nuclear enterprise and towards funding for the next phase of the AUKUS submarine programme. The remaining £1.9bn is earmarked to replenish the UK’s munitions and weapons stockpiles, which have been depleted through ongoing UK military assistance to Ukraine. Along with the immediate Defence spending uplift, the Government has also set out an ambition in IR23 to increase future Defence spending to 2.5% of GDP in the longer term, and will review Defence expenditure after 2025 in light of this ambition.
  • This extra investment means that UK spending on Defence is expected to reach 2.2% of GDP this year (2.29% if support to Ukraine is included). On future support to Ukraine, IR23 commits the Government to maintaining the same level of support  (£2.3bn) in 2023/24 as has been provided over 2022/23.
  • IR23 also commits the Government to launching a new 2 year £50m Economic Deterrence Initiative to strengthen the UK’s diplomatic and economic tools in order to respond and deter hostile acts by current and future aggressors. The initiative will improve the UK’s sanctions implementation and enforcement processes and will maximise the impact of trade, transport and financial sanctions, including cracking down on sanctions evasion.
  • IR23 will establish a new UK Integrated Security Fund (UKISF) by combining the existing Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) and a range of smaller Government Funds to support the delivery of IR23's objectives, raising overall funding to £1bn. The Government will also commit £4m over the next 2 years to embed the College for National Security – which was launched through IR2021 – in the UK’s national security architecture.
  • IR23 also announced £20m of additional funding for the BBC World Service over the next 2 years to protect all 42 World Service language services it provides, support English language broadcasting and to counter disinformation. In addition, the Government will double funding to build China capabilities across government to better understand the country, and to enable the UK to engage confidently where it is in its interests to do so.

IR23 Headline Conclusions

IR23 details the various updates to the strategic framework first outlined in the 2021 Integrated Review (IR21). The framework covers 4 pillars through which the UK will protect its core national interests. These are:

  1. Shape the international environment
  2. Deter, defend and compete across all domains
  3. Address vulnerabilities through resilience
  4. Generate strategic advantage

IR23 sets out several headline strategic conclusions associated with these 4 pillars, based on a response to the accelerated pace of change to the 4 global strategic trends outlined in IR21. The 4 trends are:

  1. Shifts in the distribution of global power
  2. Inter-state, ‘systemic’ competition over the nature of the international order
  3. Rapid technological change
  4. Worsening transnational challenges

Against this strategic content, IR23 commits the Government to:

  • Maintaining a leading position in NATO in the decade ahead, in reflection of its growing importance. This includes leading a new conversation in NATO on burden sharing and future Defence spending commitments, beginning at the 2023 NATO Leaders Summit.
  • Improving the UK’s resilience by utilising the Ministerial led Defending Democracy Taskforce, enhancing the UK's cyber security measures, strengthening deterrence through the National Security Bill and making full use of powers available to the Government such as proscription where necessary.
  • Creating a new National Protective Security Authority (NPSA) within MI5. The NPSA will replace the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) to provide expert, intelligence-led advice to businesses and institutions in sensitive sectors of the economy, including critical infrastructure, emerging technology and academia.
  • Establishing a new open-source intelligence (OSINT) hub to upgrade and better integrate the Government’s capability to collect and analyse publicly and commercially available information.  
  • Establishing an Economic Security Private-Public Sector Forum, so that Government can better communicate the UK’s economic security policies and develop joint actions and strategies with businesses.
  • Announcing several key Government Strategies, including:
    • Publishing a new Strategy on Supply Chains and Imports
    • Refreshing the Government’s approach to delivering the Critical Minerals Strategy
    • Publishing a new Semiconductor Strategy to set out plans to grow the UK semiconductors sector and improve resilience of semiconductor supply chains at home and overseas
  • Following a new long-term goal to manage the risks of miscalculation and escalation between major powers, and fostering a strategic affairs specialism across Government to build the expertise needed to navigate the changing international environment.
  • Building on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) and the Windsor Framework, in which the UK is to play a leading role in upholding the stability, security and prosperity of the continent and the Euro-Atlantic as a whole. This includes building stronger relationships with European allies and the EU.
  • Continuing to enhance relationships in the Indo-Pacific as a theatre of growing geopolitical and economic importance, and pursuing the final stages of Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) accession as a priority.
  • Recognising the need to deepen the UK’s relationships with a wide range of influential actors across the Indo-Pacific, Gulf, Africa, and beyond, and commiting the Government to supporting reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to welcome additional permanent members - specifically Brazil, India, Japan and Germany. 

Technology & Digital Commitments 

  • Building on IR21’s prioritisation of strategic advantage in Science and Technology (S&T) as a core national priority, the Government will use the new S&T Framework to create the right ecosystem for S&T to flourish in the UK and keep pace with strategic competitors, including in 5 priority areas of technology: artificial intelligence (AI), semiconductors, quantum technologies, future telecommunications and engineering biology.
  • Achieving advantage in these areas requires the UK to secure a leading role in data access and infrastructure, which will be critical to the UK’s competitiveness when developing and using digital technologies such as AI, quantum technologies and robotics. The UK will seek to incentivise investment in data-sharing infrastructure, remove barriers to global data access and use, encourage data sets to be made available publicly, and boost individual control of personal data.
  • Where the UK chooses to legislate around new technologies, it will strike the right balance between protecting people’s security and privacy and ensuring that businesses are able to innovate and compete internationally. This approach informs the forthcoming Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, and the Online Safety Bill. It also informs collaboration with allies and partners.
  • On AI, a new Government-Industry Taskforce will be established to build the UK’s capability in foundation models – a rapidly-advancing type of AI that will have far-reaching implications for the UK’s security and prosperity. One of the first priorities for the Taskforce will be to apply its deep expertise and understanding of the AI sector, to present a clear mission focus to advance the UK’s AI capability and prioritise options, action and investment designed to benefit society and the economy.
  • Building on IR21’s commitment to extending the international order into future frontiers, the UK will further strengthen efforts to shape the emerging digital and technology order by seeking to shape open, democratic norms, rules and standards and effective accountability and oversight, while opposing the overreach of state control.
  • In the digital arena, the UK will work with industry and international partners to balance and shape issues including AI, digital standards, and internet and data governance – building on the work done since IR21 through the G7, the UK-hosted Future Tech Forum, UK AI Standards Hub, and in partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) through the Global Forum on Technology and the Global Partnership for AI.
  • The UK will engage creatively where there are gaps in the current multilateral and multi-stakeholder architecture, and will look to build both global multi-stakeholder coalitions and like-minded groupings beyond traditional partners – including working with ‘digital deciders’ on critical technology and data use, development and policy making.
  • The UK will also seek to shape rules and norms of behaviour in cyberspace. In keeping with IR21, IR23 reiterates the UK's commitment to act as a responsible and democratic cyber power, including in the use of offensive cyber capabilities. In line with this, IR23 reaffirms the UK's intent to advance the progressive and proactive approach of the 2022 National Cyber Strategy, seeking to unblock the international debate on the application of rules, norms and principles in cyberspace and move towards a consensus on effective constraints on destructive and destabilising activity by state and non-state actors. The UK will also continue to develop the tools to deter, defend and compete in cyberspace, addressing both domestic cyber vulnerabilities and supporting partners to build their own capabilities.

You can access the full version of the Integrated Review 2023 Refresh here. 

Fred Sugden

Fred Sugden

Associate Director, Defence and National Security, techUK


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