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10 June 2021

The UK was the only G7 member to cut foreign aid last year

Boris Johnson’s drive to cut overseas spending puts him at odds with Joe Biden and every other major Western leader.

By Ben van der Merwe

As world leaders gather in Cornwall for this year’s G7 summit, a row over the UK government’s cuts to foreign aid risks upending hopes for a smooth diplomatic debut for “Global Britain”. 

As our US editor Emily Tamkin exclusively revealed earlier this week, American legislators have called on US President Joe Biden to condemn the planned cut from 0.7 per cent of the UK’s gross national income (GNI) to 0.5 per cent. The letter, signed by a number of leading Democratic lawmakers, accuses the British government of “undermin[ing] our collective global response” to the pandemic.

 

The UK instituted a smaller cut to aid last year, making it the only G7 member to reduce foreign aid spending during the pandemic and leaving Germany as the highest spender (0.73 per cent). Britain is also set to be overtaken by France, which last year spent 0.53 per cent, but it will remain ahead of Canada (0.31 per cent), Japan (0.31 per cent), Italy (0.22 per cent) and the US (0.17 per cent). 

Boris Johnson used last year’s G7 summit to announce an increase in foreign aid spending on girls’ education, with the aim of putting 600,000 children through school.

Two years later, the government is facing warnings from NGOs that its cuts to aid risk pulling 700,000 girls out of education. Funding for small charities has been “wiped out” by the cuts, according to charity sector representatives, with impacted projects including a programme to educate Bangladeshi victims of forced domestic labour.

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[See also: What to expect from the 2021 G7 summit]