British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday zeroed in on UK’s focus on enhancing relations with “friendly countries” in the Indo-Pacific, as he declared that the world was tilting on its economic axis towards the region.
In his flagship speech at the ruling Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester, Johnson pointed to the recently signed AUKUS security agreement between Australia, the UK and the US as a sign of this enhanced focus on the region.
He reiterated his central message of creating a global Britain, with greater freedom to define the country’s post-Brexit foreign policy as a result of leaving the European Union under his leadership.
“If you want a supreme example of global Britain in action, of something daring and brilliant that would simply not have happened if we had remained in the EU (European Union), I give you AUKUS,” said the 57-year-old Prime Minister, to applause from his Cabinet ministers and thousands of Tory party delegates.
“I know that there has been a certain raucous squaukus from the anti-AUKUS caucus, but AUKUS is simply a recognition of the reality that the world is tilting on its economic axis and our trade and relations with the Indo-Pacific region are becoming ever more vital than ever before,” he said.
The alliance — widely seen as an effort to counter China’s influence in the contested South China Sea — was announced by US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison last month.
“That is why we have sent the amazing Carrier Strike Group to the Far East, which has been performing manoeuvres with 40 friendly countries with HMS Queen Elizabeth, as long as the entire palace of Westminster and rather more compelling as an argument than many speeches made in the House of Commons,” Johnson noted.
The UK’s Carrier Strike Group has performed joint maritime exercises with the Indian Navy and will return for another operation later this month.
Johnson’s speech, which marks the conclusion of the four-day party conference, set out his vision for the Conservative government in the coming year and he used it to highlight the successes of the party to its wider membership.
He pointed to the country’s COVID-19 vaccination programme, which he said had been delivered at “incredible speed” and enabled the reopening of the economy faster than many other countries.
“How have we managed to open up ahead of so many of our friends? You know the answer, it is because of the roll-out of that vaccine – a UK phenomenon, the magic potion invented in Oxford University, bottled in Wales and distributed at incredible speed to vaccination centres everywhere,” he said.
“No other government brokered a deal such as this government did with AstraZeneca so that the Oxford vaccine has been distributed at a cost around the world more than a billion low-cost vaccines invented in Britain, saving millions of lives,” he asserted.
Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, is the result of the deal he had referenced.
The thrust of Johnson’s address was on this post-pandemic reopening, urging people to get “back in the office” and also pledging further support for his party’s “levelling up” agenda for all parts of the United Kingdom.
“We are announcing a levelling up premium of up to GBP 3,000 to send the best maths and science teachers to the places that need them the most,” he announced.
The 45-minute address was Johnson’s first direct speech to Tory party members since the COVID-19 pandemic and he delivered it in his characteristic jocular style, as he declared that his government’s central mission was in reducing regional inequality – “the greatest project that any government can embark on”.
He also made a reference to his own battle with COVID-19 at the peak of the first wave in March last year, crediting the state-funded National Health Service for saving his life.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)