PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has instructed civil servants to make plans to end UK‘s reliance on China for vital medical supplies and other strategic imports in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
The plans, which have been code named ‘Project Defend’, include identifying Britain’s main economic vulnerabilities to potentially hostile foreign governments as part of a broader new approach to national security, the The Times reported, adding that the efforts are being led by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Two “cross-departmental working groups” have been set up as part of the project, according to the report.
“It is about the diversification of supply lines so we are no longer dependent on individual countries for non-food essentials,” said a source.
Johnson told lawmakers he would take steps to protect Britain’s technological base, with the government review also expected to include personal protective equipment and drugs, the report added.
It noted that the UK had been “strategically dependent on China for 71 critical goods categories”.
A government spokesman said the pandemic highlighted the “importance of resilient supply chains to ensure the continued flow of essential items and keep global trade moving”.
“That’s why we’re looking at what steps we can take to ensure we have diverse supply chains in place,” he added.
The development comes as Beijing has been tackling mounting international criticism over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which began in China before spreading to the rest of the world.