David Cameron blasts Boris Johnson over foreign aid department merger

PUBLISHED: 16:14 16 June 2020 | UPDATED: 01:44 17 June 2020

David Cameron watches Boris Johnson at a Tory party event. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA.

David Cameron watches Boris Johnson at a Tory party event. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Former Tory prime minister David Cameron has blasted Boris Johnson for merging the Department for International Development (DfID) with the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) over Twitter.

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Cameron said the move was a “mistake”, warning it would mean “less voice” and “less respect” for the UK abroad.

In an unexpected show of disapproval for Johnson, Cameron wrote: “The prime minister is right to maintain the commitment to 0.7 (the percentage of national income allocated to international aid efforts) - it saves lives, promotes a safer world and builds British influence.

“But the decision to merge the departments is a mistake.”

He added: “More could and should be done to co-ordinate aid and foreign policy, including through the National Security Council, but the end of @DFID_UK will mean less expertise, less voice for development at the top table and ultimately less respect for the UK overseas.”

Downing Street recently announced plans to merge the FCO and DfID under one entity from this September, rebranding the agency the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

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Speaking in the Commons, Johnson said the move, which he called “long overdue”, would “unite our aid with our diplomacy”.

He also claimed to “profoundly disagree” with his predecessor’s assertions. “In all my experiences... alas, there is an incoherence in UK foreign policy which we can now rectify and have a better, more powerful, more positive voice for this country overseas which puts the idealism of development aid professionals at the heart of our foreign policy,” he told MPs.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed the merger was a tactic “of pure distraction” from National Audit Office figures released today showing that 600,000 people have lost their jobs in the last month due to Covid-19.

Members from the prime minister’s own party have disagreed with the plans. Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell said the merger was an “extraordinary mistake”.

“It would destroy one of the most effective and respected engines of international development anywhere in the world,” he argued.

Labour politician Taiwo Owatemi agreed. “The loss of the Dept for International Development is a terrible decision which will only serve to reduce our influence and some of the amazing work the UK is doing abroad,” she wrote.

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