Cutting aid budget would hit UK influence, two former PMs say

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Lord Ashdown Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey

LONDON (Reuters) – Two former British prime ministers have urged Boris Johnson to maintain government spending on foreign aid, warning that he would hurt the UK’s influence on the world stage if he cuts it in a review of finance next week.

Tony Blair and David Cameron issued a statement to the Telegraph newspaper urging Johnson to maintain Britain’s commitment to devote 0.7% of its GDP to aid and development following reports that he could be reduced to save money during the pandemic.

UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak will present a spending review on Wednesday, exposing government spending over the next year after COVID-19 blew up a £ 200bn ($ 266bn) hole in the country’s finances.

“Dropping the 0.7 target for aid would be a moral, strategic and political mistake,” said Cameron, Prime Minister 2010-2016 and a member of Johnson’s Conservative Party.

The two former leaders have argued that any decision to cut aid spending would weaken Britain’s position when it hosts the G7 summit in 2021. The move comes as the country embarks on a new future in outside the European Union.

Blair, a Labor prime minister from 1997 to 2007 who introduced the 0.7% target, said the spending had helped fight disease, boost education and help raise living standards in large swathes of Africa.

“It has been a great achievement for British soft power,” he said. “It’s not a question of charity. It’s an enlightened personal interest.

“Neither the climate challenge or the coronavirus can be met without Africa. Nor those of extremism and uncontrolled immigration. Changing it is a deep strategic mistake, and I sincerely hope the government will not do it. not.”

Johnson was urged during his weekly question-and-answer session in parliament on Wednesday to rule out a cut in aid, and refused to do so.

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