United Kingdom: Foreign Policy Crossroads? Part II
5: The United States – the special relationship
Britain’s complicated relationship with its partners in the EU and Europe must undoubtedly be seen in the context of the country’s role as America’s closest European ally. Not only do the United States and the United Kingdom have close ties through common political and economic interests, but the two countries also largely share a common history, culture and language. Winston Churchill was the first to launch the idea of a “special relationship” between the United States and Britain, a country located in Europe according to topschoolsintheusa.com, when he stated in a speech that “neither secure prevention of war, nor the emergence of international organizations” could be achieved without this “fraternal alliance”. between the English-speaking peoples ».
Since then, the phrase “the special relationship” has been repeated to the point of boredom in speeches, books and newspaper articles on both sides of the Atlantic. The concept of the relationship between the two countries Great Britain and the United States is mainly used , but it is also used to describe friendships between different British and American heads of state.. Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt are said to have had very good personal chemistry. Other examples include Harold McMillan and John F. Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. As a result of the Iraq war, the relationship between Blair and George W. Bush was also given a lot of space and attention, and then extremely rarely in a positive sense. The strongest critics accused Blair of overestimating his importance in Washington and acting as Bush’s “poodle” rather than an equal ally.
6: New foreign policy course?
In 1997, Tony Blair and his New Labor took over the United Kingdom with a very good starting point for playing an important role in the international arena. The British economy was finally recovered after the country had been designated as “Europe’s sick man” for several years, and the country was in a unique position to exert influence on the United States and the EU and the UN. During his ten years as Prime Minister, Blair also distinguished himself to the highest degree as a politician of international caliber.
He played a key role when concepts such as “humanitarian intervention” and an “ethical dimension in foreign policy” were introduced in the international debate. Together with NATO’s unauthorized (without a UN mandate) intervention in Kosovo in 1999, these concepts challenged international law and the UN’s traditional emphasis on state sovereignty. Blair also set himself the goal of “bringing Britain closer to Europe.” Many believe he succeeded in this in foreign and security policy, but not in the question of euro cooperation. One of Blair’s most frequent arguments was that Britain should not choose between the United States and Europe, but on the contrary could benefit from both. Yet, as the Iraq example shows, he was accused of always falling on the US side when he was forced to vote. Several analysts then also believe that the Iraq war became Blair’s political path. When he announced his resignation in 2007, there was little to be traced of the recognition he was met with ten years ago.
Against this background, it was therefore absolutely necessary that Gordon Brown (Blair’s Minister of Finance) in his declaration of accession in 2007 announced new foreign policy priorities. Brown – who represents the same party as Blair, was elected to parliament the same year and has been in government for the same length of time – would hardly be able to rebuild voters’ trust in the party and the government without marking a change of course from the unpopular Blair. In addition, it was important for him to mark his own platform.
The first sign of a shift came when Brown appointed two ministers with a reportedly more reserved attitude toward the United States. Foreign Minister David Miliband is said to have been a strong critic of the Iraq war within the Blair government. And the newly appointed Minister of Africa, Asia and the United Nations, Mark Malloch Brown, stated shortly after his appointment that it was unlikely that Britain and the United States would continue to “hang in the balance” with Brown as prime minister.
Brown himself sparked similar speculation when he chose to have official meetings with EU President José Socrates and his French and German colleagues Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel before traveling to Washington to hold talks with George W. Bush. Several media outlets also noticed that Brown during the press conference with Bush appeared to be far less enthusiastic and smiling than Blair in his time did in the same situation.
Brown’s repeated emphasis on the ongoing withdrawal of British forces from Iraq is also interpreted as a desire to distance itself from Blair’s foreign policy course. At the same time, it is important to point out that the withdrawal process was started by Blair in 2007, and thus does not represent an actual change in policy.
Nor do there appear to be major changes in Britain’s European policy. In recent months, Brown, like his predecessors, has experienced the pervasive British skepticism of the EU. In the process of renegotiating the EU’s disqualified constitutional treaty (now the Lisbon Treaty), Brown argued that a British referendum would not be necessary. He believed all British reservations had been met. However, the criticism he received from the opposition, in the British media and in the form of declining support for the opinion polls, indicates that the new Prime Minister is facing a still tough and extensive EU debate at home. Brown was also the only head of state not present when the Lisbon Treaty was formally signed in December 2007.
Although Gordon Brown has announced new priorities in foreign policy, there are many indications that the main lines and debates in British politics remain largely the same. In the time to come, Brown must therefore be expected to face many of the same political challenges as his predecessors, not least in terms of Britain’s relations with the UN, Europe and the United States.
Facts about the UK
- Area: approx. 241,000 km 2
- Population: 60.6 million (2006): England: 50.7, Wales: close to 3 million, Scotland: 5.1 and Northern Ireland: 1.7
- Employment by sector: agriculture: 1.4%, industry: 24.1 and services: 75%
- Unemployment: Varying between 5.0 and 5.5 last couple of years
- Population growth: 0.3%
- Life expectancy at birth: 78.7 years. K: 81.3; M: 76.2
- Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita: $ 31,800 (2006)
- Internet access: 61% of households