The government has appointed a former army reservist to represent and boost the country’s defence exports.
International trade secretary Kemi Badenoch announced that Lord Lancaster, also previously a government minister and Conservative MP, will serve as the newly created Defence Export Advocate.
According to the government press release, Lancaster’s role will be to drive UK exports in the defence sector and conduct a programme of visits at home and abroad to raise the profile of the industry.
The defence sector supports over 92,000 jobs and, in 2021, the value of UK security export sales was £8.22bn.
“The UK’s defence sector is worth billions in exports and drives growth, investment and jobs in every corner of the country, helping to grow our economy and moving us forward in the Race to a Trillion exports.
“Mark knows that more exports and investment are just what this industry needs to boost jobs and help us stay ahead of the competition, and I’m delighted to have him on board to spearhead our efforts.”
Lancaster said he was “delighted” to be taking on the role and will initially focus on export opportunities in Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia and Qatar, as well as countries in NATO’s ‘eastern flank’.
The government says the role is similar in nature to that of other trade envoys, except it will have a global rather than regional focus.
Andy Bridges, a trade and customs specialist at the Institute of Export & International Trade, said the decision was “a very positive move by the government.”
“The appointment of Lord Lancaster shows that the UK is serious about its ongoing defence sales growth for the foreseeable future.
“It enhances and justifies the UK's standing in the global defence export market, which has been predominantly aimed at the European and North American markets. A fresh face with modern ideas can open up the UK’s products to a wider audience globally.”
A former MP for Milton Keynes North (originally Milton Keynes North East) from 2005 until 2019, Lancaster served as a whip and a junior minister in the defence department.
He was also a shadow international development minister during the Conservatives’ time in opposition.
Lancaster’s military career includes three tours of duty in Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan, and he currently holds the rank of a brigadier with the Army Reserve.
UK defence exports
According to government data, the UK was the second largest exporter in the global defence market after the US on a ten-year rolling basis.
Its three largest defence export markets are North America, Middle East and Europe.
Saudi Arabia, in particular, is a big importer of the UK’s products and a new agreement to boost defence trade between the two countries was signed in late December 2022.
The defence sector is also a focus of the negotiations between the UK and the Gulf Coast Consortium over the creation of a new trade deal.