Democracy is in retreat, warns Dominic Raab

Army tankImage source, PA Media

The foreign secretary has warned democracy is "in retreat", in a speech setting out his vision for the UK's role in the world.

Dominic Raab argued democracies face their greatest threat since the end of the Cold War.

He said that is why countries like Britain should try to be a "force for good in the world".

It comes as the government faces criticism over the UK's future relationship with China.

The Integrated Review of foreign and defence policy set out by the government yesterday plans to increase the cap on the UK's stockpile of nuclear weapons.

It also said Britain would shift its focus towards Indo-Pacific countries, while pledging to tackle the "systemic challenge" of China.

Speaking to the US Aspen Security Forum, Mr Raab predicted in the next decade, the combined wealth of autocratic regimes is likely to exceed that of the world's democracies.

"Think about what that means for a second," he said.

"Tyranny is richer than freedom, and that matters to us here at home.

"Because stable, freedom-respecting democracies are much less likely to go to war, house terrorists or trigger large scale flows of migrants and they are generally, not always, but generally easier to trade with, and easier to cooperate with to solve our shared problems."

He said the UK has "a moral responsibility and an indivisible stake in our planet, our global economy, our global ecosystem and the conditions of peace and stability that underpin them".

And he argued that the UK "can and should help alleviate the worst suffering in the world".

'Era of retreat'

Responding to the review on Tuesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Conservatives of overseeing an "era of retreat," with armed forces cuts "every year for the last decade".

And he also said the UK's policy towards China had been "inconsistent" and accused the government of turning "a blind eye" to human rights abuses in the country.

Meanwhile, Mr Raab has faced criticism after apparently telling officials the UK should trade with countries not meeting European Convention on Human Rights standards, in a leaked clip obtained by HuffPost UK.

The Foreign Office said the recording was selectively clipped to distort the comments of the foreign secretary who, it said, had emphasised the importance of promoting human rights.

China concern

The government is facing internal Conservative pressure to harden its stance on China over issues including its clampdown on Uighur Muslims and democratic rights in Hong Kong.

The review said the UK should "continue to pursue a positive trade and investment relationship" with the country - prompting some criticism from backbenchers.

Senior Tory Julian Lewis took issue with its description of China as a "partner," adding it suggested suggested the "grasping naivety" of the party's approach under David Cameron and former chancellor George Osborne, when it actively sought Chinese investment, "still lingers on".

But giving evidence to a Lords committee on Wednesday, Mr Osborne defended his approach, arguing the UK should not take a "dramatically different" stance on Chinese investment.

He told peers the UK was "more likely to get a hearing" over its human rights concerns by "engaging" with China economically.

He added that forcing China to "engage with the world" was likely to improve British security in the long-run.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also defended the government's approach, arguing that to "pull up the drawbridge" would not be "productive" when it comes to rights issues.

"You can trade with a country and at the same time make very strong representations about their mistreatment of minorities and their human rights abuses," he told Radio 4's Today programme.