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The UK and the Arctic

Volume 727: debated on Thursday 9 February 2023

The Minister of State (Overseas Territories, Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and Environment), my noble Friend Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, has made the following written ministerial statement:

Today, the Government are publishing a new UK-Arctic policy framework, “Looking North: The UK and the Arctic”. This updates the UK’s current Arctic policy frame- work, “Beyond the ice”, published in 2018.

“Looking North” brings together all the UK’s policies and strategies relevant to the Arctic under a single, integrated framework, in line with the integrated review. It builds on the Ministry of Defence’s “The UK’s Defence Contribution in the High North” paper, published in March 2022. It outlines the full range of UK interests in the region, and sets out the long-term priorities and objectives which shape our engagement and actions on the Arctic.

This new framework is designed to represent evolution, rather than revolution, in the UK’s approach to the Arctic, underlining our long-standing interests in the region, particularly at a time of heightened tension in the region, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and amid growing competition from China. Our approach will remain dynamic, responsive to changes in the Arctic region and across the globe.

Our long-term strategic objective remains for the Arctic to be a peaceful and stable region, characterised by co-operation. The new framework reiterates that the UK will remain an active, influential and reliable partner in the Arctic.

In doing so, the UK will focus activity across four priority areas:

Partnering and collaborating—the UK is open to the world, with a global network of friends and partners, and with the opportunity to forge new and deeper relationships.

Protecting the climate, people and environment—the Arctic is, first and foremost, home to the people who live there. But climate change poses an existential threat to the Arctic as we know it, and to all who rely on its ecosystems and biodiversity.

Preserving security and stability—the Arctic has, for many years, enjoyed constructive international co-operation and has, historically, been characterised by low tension. The UK remains committed to the long-term stability and security of the Arctic region.

Promoting our shared prosperity—the UK aims for a prosperous Arctic, where economic and commercial development is achieved in a way that is safe, responsible and sustainable. The people who live in the Arctic should benefit from increasing prosperity in the region.

Through this new framework, the UK will take a whole-of-Government approach to the Arctic. Drawing on the diplomatic excellence of our diplomatic missions across the region, the defence capabilities of the UK’s armed forces, and the world-class scientific expertise of the UK Arctic research community, we will work with our partners and allies to help maintain the Arctic as a place that is safe, secure, peaceful, and well-governed, protecting its environment and the communities who call the Arctic their home. A copy of the framework has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.