Boris Johnson is due to speak to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a video call on Wednesday evening to agree further bilateral co-operation with its Commonwealth ally, with Britain stepping up its investment in the Indo-Pacific as part of a wider shift in foreign policy.
The expected announcement comes less than six months after Australia, the UK and the US signed up to a pact, dubbed Aukus, to develop nuclear-powered submarines for Canberra in a bid to increase joint naval activity in the region.
Mr Johnson said Wednesday’s latest agreement was part of “forging a new partnership from a historic alliance”.
The UK investment will see £25 million committed to projects in the region designed to “strengthen resilience in cyberspace, state threats and maritime security”, Downing Street said.
The deal is about the UK positioning to be the “European partner of choice in the Indo-Pacific”, according to officials, as Western attention turns to dealing with concerns about China’s growing influence.
The UK Government’s defence and foreign policy integrated review published last year announced a “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific, pledging more involvement in the region, starting with aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth’s deployment through the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia during the second half of 2021.
The Prime Minister said: “The UK and Australia are working together to enhance regional security in the Indo-Pacific, drive innovation in science and green technology and boost opportunities for our businesses and citizens.
“Our nations are forging a new partnership from a historic alliance, fit for the next century and grounded in our shared priorities on security, democracy and free and fair trade.”
Mr Johnson was also expected to discuss the current tension between Russia and Ukraine with his Australian counterpart.
Furthermore, the conversation between the two leaders was scheduled to see them agree to increase co-operation on science and technology through a new Science Partnership Series.
The pair will aim to build on the Australia-UK free trade deal sealed in December, with Mr Johnson set to welcome new investments in both countries.
The developments relate to Australian fintech firm PEXA expanding into the UK as its first international market, while UK energy company Octopus is creating a greenfield renewables project.
Octopus Australia is partnering with an indigenous business group to create “desert springs Octopus”, a project worth £26 billion over 10 years that will deliver wind, solar and hydrogen energy, No 10 said.