Britain’s economic security

The deputy prime minister, Rt Hon Oliver Dowden MP, shares his vision for balancing growth and security.

Open event, Panel Recording
18 April 2024 — 11:30AM TO 12:30PM
Chatham House and Online

Event video

The deputy prime minister, Rt Hon Oliver Dowden MP, shares his vision for balancing growth and security.

The experience of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and COVID-19 brought into focus the risks posed by fragile supply chains and economic dependencies on hostile and authoritarian states. More and more, governments around the world are bringing in measures to diversify or ‘de-risk’ their supply chains and other economic links. They are seeking to protect their economies from both global crises, the possibility of economic coercion, and other attempts at weaponizing economic links and legitimate economic interactions.

For the UK, this issue has been a long-running concern, with the fierce debate in 2020 over whether the country should incorporate Huawei into its 5G infrastructure highlighting difficult questions about how to manage strategic and economic links with Chinese companies. As Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport at the time, Oliver Dowden played a leading role in the government’s decision to ban Huawei from the UK’s 5G networks and introduced the Telecoms Security Act.

In January 2022, the National Security and Investment Act came into force, giving the government powers to scrutinise investment and take action to protect assets vital to the UK’s national security in some economic sectors. In March 2023, the Government published the Integrated Review Refresh, which sets out its approach to tackling economic security threats. But as the UK seeks continued foreign investment to support growth, foreign investors need  clarity on the UK’s approach.

How will the UK government balance these risks while protecting competitiveness? In an election year, the interconnection between Britain’s role in the global economy and its foreign policy will be critical – what is the Conservative vision for economic security?

Key questions to be discussed include:

  • How can achieving economic security be balanced with a business-friendly environment that appeals to investors? What measures is the UK government taking to protect competitiveness? What might this mean for controls on outbound investment?
  • How should the UK pursue ‘de-risking’ in its economic relationships? How is the UK preventing sensitive tech transfer while encouraging innovation?
  • What is a Conservative vision for the UK economy in a destabilised world? How should the UK use its economic influence to tackle global threats and protect global norms, in partnership with other countries?