21:04 GMT03 March 2021
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    British lawmakers underlined that foreign investments in the UK defence supply chain should be restricted to companies from NATO countries or London's allies outside the North Atlantic Alliance.

    Beijing may snap up more UK aerospace companies in order to obtain access to their technology and increase its military buildup, the UK House of Commons Defence Committee has warned in a report.  

    According to the study released on Sunday, venture capital funds "represent an avenue for hostile foreign investors to gain entry into the UK defence supply chain".

    The lawmakers urged the Ministry of Defence to open a probe into China's drive to get control of "financially fragile" British aerospace companies hit by the downfall in civilian air travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The report singled out at least nine such firms that provide the Defence Ministry and allied forces with military components and which have already been bought by China.

    The list includes companies that supply parts for the Royal Air Force (RAF)'s F-35B fighter jets and the A400M Atlas transport planes, as well as firms dealing with space technology and the production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

    F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 "The Wake Island Avengers" and the United Kingdom's Lightning 617 Squadron shortly after embarking onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth on 22 September, 2020, off the coast of the United Kingdom.

    The MPs insisted that foreign investment in the British defence industry should be restricted to companies from NATO countries and other UK allies. They recalled that over the past 30 years, the government has pursued a policy of attracting investments to the defence sector on an "acceptable risk" basis.

    The lawmakers urged Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to compile a list of hostile countries that should be stopped from entering the UK's defence supply chain, adding that China should be referred to as one of the main threats in this regard.

    The Defence Ministry, in turn, responded by pointing out that they're keeping an eye on foreign investments in the UK's defence sector and "undertake rigorous assessments when considering their [investments] potential risks to national security".

    "The National Security and Investment Bill [which is going through parliament] is intended to enhance the government's powers to screen and, where necessary, intervene", the ministry added.

    Last year, Defence Select Committee member Tobias Ellwood called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to join efforts with the US on a new blueprint for global unity, warning of the intensifying rivalry with Beijing that Ellwood claimed may spill into an "eventual conflict".

    London and Beiing remain at loggerheads over an array of issues pertaining to the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, Huawei, and human rights, among other things.


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