EU Shocker: The United States agrees with the British Government! - Spectator Blogs

10 January 2013

12:51 PM

10 January 2013

12:51 PM

Good grief. Are we supposed to be surprised that senior officials at the US State Department take the view that Britain should, all things considered, remain a member of the European Union? Of course not. Are, however, we supposed to be shocked by Foggy Bottom’s impertinence in saying so? Apparently so.

Of course, if the Obama administration were to say that it’s in America’s interests for Britain to leave the EU then I hazard many of those pretending – for surely it must only be a pretence? – to be outraged by this damned interference in our own affairs would instead welcome the Americans’ intervention in the debate and use it as yet more evidence the EU is a busted flush and that the future lies in some grand Churchillian alliance of the English-speaking peoples.

Well, fine. But must we be so touchy about these things? Have we really reached the stage at which we considerate illegitimate or, worse still, inappropriate for our closest allies to declare their interests? It seems so, at least as far as eurosceptics are concerned. Especially when American preferences are deemed inconvenient.

Washington’s view is hardly going to determine the outcome of Britain’s deliberations on this front but the hysterical reaction to Philip Gordon’s comments is entirely disproportionate to the imaginary offense caused.

Take, for instance, inveterate Obama-hater Niall Gardiner’s laughably tendentious response. This espresso-cup sized tempest is yet another reminder that it would have been better for Britain if Mitt Romney had won last year’s presidential election. Why so? Because:

Had Mitt Romney won, there would have been a very different approach towards the EU, with a far greater emphasis upon advancing ties with nation states in Europe as opposed to currying favour with Brussels. Romney’s approach was distinctly Eurosceptic, with frequent warnings against America ending up like Europe, with its big government, high tax approach.

This is nonsense. Romney, in as much as he had a coherent foreign policy agenda at all (itself a debatable proposition), may have warned against creeping euro-socialism but that’s not the same thing at all as endorsing British withdrawal from the EU. The American interest in Britain’s continuing membership would have remained the same regardless of whoever won the Presidential election. We may hazard this for the very simple reason that all recent American Presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, have favoured British involvement in Europe.


And they have done so for precisely the reasons Philip Gordon suggests. Namely:

“Britain has been such a special partner of the United States – that shares our values, shares our interests, has significant resources to bring to the table. More than most others, its voice within the European Union is essential and critical to the United States.”

“There are a lot of inevitably technical and detailed issues that have to be sorted out for every member of the European Union as it moves forward, but as a broad and general theme, we value a strong UK voice in a strong European Union.”

As far as the Americans are concerned, then, British membership of the EU acts as a useful counterweight to, well, the French. It is the same reason the Dutch, the Poles, the Swedes, the Czechs and others wish Britain to remain a full member of the EU. Remove Britain and the EU becomes a little less liberal on many matters that matter dearly to these countries (and to Britain!) just as much, indeed even more than, they do to the United States.

Indeed, Mr Gordon’s views are not in fact very far removed from what I take to be the British government’s own position. You may think that position hopelessly misguided or even irresponsibly naive but it is hardly impertinent for the Americans to say that, broadly speaking, they agree with the British government’s own views and that this, conveniently, suits the interests of both countries.

According to Mr Gardiner, however:

[I]f anything, the ignorant and relentless hectoring from Washington will only encourage the resolve of those who are fighting to restore national sovereignty for Britain in Europe. Frankly, British policy on Europe is none of President Obama’s business. The present US administration is not only flat wrong on the EU, but it is also displaying a breathtaking arrogance that will win it few friends across the Atlantic in the second term of the Obama presidency.

Well, it’s a point of view.

That said, he is on slightly stronger ground when he writes:

Unfortunately for Washington, that single European voice [that the Americans say they wish to hear from] is often deeply anti-American in nature, and all too often working against the United States on the world stage. But this is a point that is lost on the US State Department, which traditionally backs European integration with all the zeal of a Herman Van Rompuy or Jose Manuel Barroso. The last thing America needs is a common EU foreign and defense policy that undercuts the NATO alliance and the Special Relationship while making it far harder for the US to build partnerships in Europe with individual allies on areas of common interest.

Of course, if the EU really is “often deeply anti-American in nature” then it seems entirely reasonable for the US to think its interests lie in Britain’s continuing membership since that must  – or should be thought likely to – mitigate the EU’s supposedly inveterately anti-American nature.

It is true that the Americans are not keen on EU foreign and defence policies that “undercut” NATO. Which is why Washington has generally looked askance at the development of any truly independent european defence capability. That is, the Americans wish the EU to speak as one when and in areas that suit US interests but not when or in areas that do not. Shocking! Granted, that means the American attitude to the EU is in some ways incoherent but, hell, you can’t get everything you want.

Even so, it is hardly a surprise that Washington would prefer Britain to remain a member of the EU or that the Americans think this would be in their (and Britain’s) interest.

But if chums cannot speak frankly to chums then what is the point of being chums? It is hardly impertinent for the Americans to declare their interest just as it is hardly impertinent for Britain to make its views known to other countries on matters that also concern the United Kingdom and there’s something depressingly childish about pretending to be outraged by any of this.


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Show comments
  • RBcritique

    I’m sorry, but I’m really getting cheesed off with the typographical errors that are now endemic on this site. The hard copy Spectator was practically inscrutable in this respect, but I can hardly recall a single article here that is untainted. Just who proofreads this stuff ?

    I expect it elsewhere on the internet but, please, not here.

    Does it really need to be spelled out in this, of all, publications ? Why should anyone bother reading if the author cannot bother with even a cursory check ?

    Perhaps even more embarrassing is what it reveals about a journalist’s modus operandi. Take the 3rd sentence of the 3rd paragraph above. How on earth did this obvious dictation slip slip through the net ? How moronic is that ?

    Is it the new de rigeur of bloggers/journalists to proletarianise their opinion by a sort of inverted snobbery in type ? Charles Moore doesn’t do it; Toby manages fine. Fraser does his best not to too,

    Please raise the bar. Once and for all.

  • global city

    Mexican State department argues that New Mexico must stay in the US union, as it’s independent voice on the inside helps to further Mexican government interests.

  • David Lindsay

    Philip Gordon is only expressing the view of every American Administration since the 1940s. There is no “Anglosphere”, just as there is no “Special Relationship”. There never has been, and there never will be.

    It is quite comical to watch people who previously believed that America could never be wrong about anything, but who have changed their tune now that she has a black President.

    Take a look at Telegraph Blogs today. Hilarious. And I mean above the line, not below it, where a lot people always have understood the real world.

    • Hugh

      Yes, clearly it’s because America has a black president. Nothing to do with the right opposing a Democratic left-leaning President. Shock! as Massie might say.

      • David Lindsay

        No, it is only because of his skin colour. Clinton had none of this trouble from them. In his own country, yes. But not in this one.

  • CraigStrachan

    Gardiner is like Tim Stanley, if you subtract the enthusiasm, self-deprecation and natural affinity for the U.S. And add a turgid writing style.

    • cg

      Gardiner is always good for a laugh and for making predictions that turn out to be spectacularly wrong. To be honest, I thought he would still be keeping a low profile after his mate was thrashed in the election but he’s back to amuse us.

      • CraigStrachan

        Yes, he just can’t seem to get over Romney losing.

        Maybe someone should explain that Mitt’s a Mormon, not a Moonie?

  • Noa

    “It is the same reason the Dutch, the Poles, the Swedes, the Czechs and others wish Britain to remain a full member of the EU. Remove Britain and the EU becomes a little less liberal on many matters that matter dearly to these countries (and to Britain!) just as much, indeed even more than, they do to the United States…”

    You appear not to have noticed, but it’s hardly liberal now, is it? And it’s going to became a whole lot worse as the Geurozone disenfranchises its populations. These countries joined the EU because they saw it as the lesser evil to the one in the East.

    Of course, when the UK leaves in accordance with the wishes of its people they may also do so if they chose. As with us, it’s their right and choice, untrammeled by foreign interests and however much of a strategic and administrative inconvenience that may be to the US and its incumbent European Secretary.

    • cg

      You think Sweden joined the EU in order to join NATO? Well, they’re taking their time considering that they are still not NATO members. You should also be aware that the eastern European nations such as Poland and Estonia joined NATO before they joined the EU, which all rather puts a hole in that particular section of your argument, what what?
      I’ve traditionally been Eurosceptic (not Europhobic) but the UKIP arguments are pushing me more away from this position, day by day, so don’t count on the British people rubber stamping your personal views.

      • Noa

        Thank you for the correction on Sweden’s non membership. NATO describes it thus:-
        “Swedish cooperation with NATO is based on a longstanding policy of
        military non-alignment and a firm national consensus. From this basis,
        Sweden selects areas of cooperation with NATO that match joint
        NATO values very highly its relations with Sweden. The Allies view
        Sweden as an effective and pro-active partner and contributor to
        international security, which shares key values such as the promotion of
        international security, democracy and human rights.”

        As the US has softened on its commitments to NATO the ex Soviet bloc countries have become increasingly concerned to find an alternative protector, seeing the EU as an alternative. The creation of an EU military capability reinforces this. So I don’t think you’ve refuted my point, rather corrected a detail, for which again, thank you.

        You should take up your concerns with UKIP regarding their policies.

        My own views are always open to change on presentation of a cogent argument, which you have yet to make. And of course I don’t expect either you or the British people to rubber stamp them.

        • Wessex Man

          You are correct cg but why let the facts get in the way, next we will be told that it was the EU that ensured the peace in Europe and kept the USSR at bay!

          • Noa

            Which is what the EU’s version of history says.

  • FF42

    Mr Gordon, the top European official at the State Dept is telling the UK Government to put more effort into working with EU partners than discussing how to change the setup.

    It may be diplomatic language but it is definitely a warning, from his point of view.

    • Noa

      “…the State Dept is telling the UK Government…” . Precisely.

  • tomjol

    Couldn’t agree more. The outrage is preposterous. This issue seems to be dominated not by rational thought and reasoned debate but by violent, abusive reactions to the concerns of our friends.

    I fear that whatever decision is ultimately made, it will be based on rhetoric, not what’s best for Britain – future generations, not just us.

  • Hugh

    But Daniel Hannan doesn’t appear to be shocked, so why do you link to him? He doesn’t, for instance, use the words “shocked”, “impertinent” or “inappropriate”. He simply states that the fact that the Philip Gordon would like us to stay in the EU isn’t a good argument for doing so, which seems fair comment since one suspects the front pages of the Independent, Guardian and FT today are intended to imply that it is.

    As for Gardiner’s piece, that does accuse the Obama administration of arrogance, but your rebuttal is no more convincing. Mr Gordon also said, for instance, that “referendums have often turned countries inward”, and that “The more the EU reflects on its internal debate, the less it is able to be unified.” That, to some, might appear to be a criticism of the idea of having a referendum on Europe, rather undermining the government’s position.

    His comments also come ahead of Cameron’s speech, so it does seem an odd time to publicly state what line the US would like him to take if it didn’t want to put pressure on the government. Yes, chums can talk to chums. The US State Department has avenues through which to do so other than a press conference, though.

    And, no, it’s not shocking that “the Americans wish the EU to speak as one when and in areas that suit US interests but not when or in areas that do not”. But nor is it shocking that when the Americans chip in as to what they’d like the British to do in matters of controversy a few are minded to tell them to mind their own bloody business. Must you be so touchy when they do?

  • Eddie

    Is the US want our support anywhere, then they had better stop their anti-British stance on any oil spill that happens off their shores, and which are all caused by the US government cutting corners to allow exploration – instead of blaming ‘British Petroleum’ for everything.
    Ditto with the US blaming the Libor rate for economic problems – when the cause of those rests with the USA and its deregulation of markets without adequate regulation.
    It could also employ people at customs and passport control in Florida and elsewhere who were knew some manners.
    Oh, and time to end the lob-sided extradition laws too.
    Then we can think about listening to anything the US government says – though, sadly, Obama has made Britain his straw man to blame for all racism in the world (what with removing Churchill’s bust from the White House as his first act in power, and his fabricated family history – the torture of his grandparents by the British which never happened; he could even apologise for his error…).

    • Eddie

      And let us not forget that a Brit – Bradley Manning – who grew up in Wales with a Welsh mum, is now undergoing psychological torture by being held in solitary for 24 hours a day in a US jail – and all because he exposed the poor security of US systems and also the double standards that US foreign policy promotes for Wikileaks.
      The US government should return Manning to the UK. Then we can negotiate. Until then, we should not negotiate with terrorists…

  • Wessex Man

    Is this the same member of the Administration who thought it would be a good ideal for the United kingdom to “join the Euro Dollar scheme?”