Prime Minister Boris Johnson | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Boris Johnson announces merger of UK foreign and aid departments
The move was condemned by Conservative ex-development secretary.
Updated 6/16/20, 6:04 PM CET
LONDON — Boris Johnson announced plans on Tuesday to merge his government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the Department for International Development in a move designed to unite the U.K.’s development and diplomatic priorities.
The prime minister said the coronavirus pandemic had shown that aid and foreign policy are “one and the same endeavor” and complained that the work of the two departments does not have a unified structure of oversight.
But the decision prompted almost immediate criticism from three former U.K. prime ministers, including Johnson’s former Brexit rival David Cameron.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Johnson said: “One cardinal lesson of the pandemic is that distinctions between diplomacy and development are artificial and outdated. I have decided to merge DfID with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to create a new department, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and this will unite our aid with our diplomacy and bring them together in our international effort.”
But Johnson’s Labour predecessors Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, along with Conservative Cameron, said the merger was a mistake.
“More could and should be done to co-ordinate aid and foreign policy, including through the National Security Council, but the end of [DfID] will mean less expertise, less voice for development at the top table and ultimately less respect for the U.K.