In a recent, high-profile article, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband stated that the Conservative Party’s European policy, which advocates Britain’s sovereignty and independence as a nation-state, threatens the US-UK Special Relationship. He argued that President Obama’s unfettered enthusiasm for further EU integration means that Britain should relinquish its foreign policy to the unelected and unaccountable European Commission, in order to retain its influence with Washington. Now, Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague, has hit back in spectacular fashion. He has blown apart the two biggest myths perpetuated by EU-integrationists, namely that (1) Britain has meaningfully shaped EU policy; or (2) the Anglo-American Special Relationship can thrive via the EU.
Mr. Hague states bluntly: “For more than a decade we have had a British government whose idea of being in Europe’s mainstream meant following in others’ slipstream. The results have been meagre.” He is right. On every major question within the European Union, Britain has lost out. For example, the Common Agricultural Policy continues to protect French farmers and discriminate against more efficient British farmers; The European Security and Defense Policy has not delivered increased defense spending or military capabilities by Britain’s under-spending Continental partners; the Common Foreign and Security Policy is driven by Franco-German interests such as appeasing Russian aggression. On every level, Britain has been led, rather than taken the lead in Europe, since the departure of Lady Thatcher from office in 1990.
Despite President Obama’s enthusiasm for the European project, he will soon find what every President before him has: that if he wants something done, he should avoid Brussels and deal with his allies bilaterally. It isn’t ‘Europe’ who will provide extra troops for Afghanistan, for example; it is America’s closest allies who will do so individually. And America has had no greater partner – in cultural, economic, military and intelligence terms – than the UK. The Special Relationship is predicated on shared values and common interests that go far beyond the illusion of a European superstate.