Johnson Faces Tory Revolt Over Plan to Cut U.K. Foreign Aid

Boris Johnson faces a revolt from his own ruling Conservatives over plans to cut the U.K. foreign aid budget, just days before he hosts a Group of Seven summit focused on helping the developing world.

Tory member of Parliament Tobias Ellwood told BBC radio he’s “cautiously confident” the rebels have enough support to force the government into a U-turn, after ministers blamed the financial toll of the pandemic for abandoning a longstanding target to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on foreign aid.

The rebels plan to use a Parliament vote on the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill on Monday to force a change in course. They plan to insert a new clause in the legislation to require the government to meet the 0.7% foreign aid target, rather than the 0.5% of GDP -- a reduction of about 4 billion pounds ($5.7 billion) -- it currently plans.

The amendment, if it’s selected by the House of Commons Speaker, would need about 40 rebels to pass if all the opposition parties vote against Johnson, as they have indicated they will do. By Thursday, rebel leader Andrew Mitchell said he has the support of 30 Conservatives, including former Prime Minister Theresa May. In a statement, Mitchell urged the government to “think again.”

The foreign aid reduction has been controversial since it was announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak in November, triggering a backlash among Tory grandees who regard the spending as central to Britain’s overseas influence and identity.

The timing of the rebels’ move is especially awkward for Johnson, coming ahead of the G-7 meeting in southwest England at the end of next week, where leaders will discuss a range of issues including boosting vaccine access for developing nations and collaboration on climate change.

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins defended the aid cut on Thursday, arguing during a series of media appearances that the U.K. is still allocating more than 10 billion pounds this year, making it one of the largest donors in the world.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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