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Saturday, January 12, 2013

The US, the UK and the EU

At first I thought the headline was a joke:  Obama administration warns Britain to stay in the European Union.   I double-checked and The Guardian is running the same story so there is basic agreement here on what was said and by whom.

In response to news that the UK may hold a referendum on membership in the EU, Philip H. Gordon of the U.S. State Department who was in London recently made it very clear what the United States thinks of that idea.
“We have a growing relationship with the EU as an institution, which has an increasing voice in the world, and we want to see a strong British voice in that EU. That is in America’s interests. We welcome an outward-looking EU with Britain in it.” 
“The EU in particular is such a critical partner for the United States on all of these global issues and therefore we also value a strong UK voice in that European Union. Britain has been such a special partner of the United States - that shares our values, shares our interests, and 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."
Frankly I have never given a moment's thought to what the U.S. thinks of the EU.  Sure, I am vaguely aware that some right-wingers in the U.S. are pretty contemptuous of it but since I know many Europeans who have equal contempt for the American Right, I figured it was a draw and safe to ignore.  I've noticed however that when it really matters the U.S. and the EU seem to work pretty closely on security issues and migration.  

But the above statements by Mr. Gordon are practically a declaration of love.  The EU is not only a fine institution with a "growing relationship" with the US but it's at the level of "critical partner."  All Europeans should go out tomorrow and buy themselves bigger hats.  

All except for the Brits of course who only get one if they agree to stay on the team.


Jordan said...

With the upcoming referendum that has the potential to un-united the United Kingdom, anything is possible. Im no Euroskeptic, but the Union, and especially the Schengen Zone, has expanded to the point that its almost unrecognizable from what it was 25 years ago. Much good comes from integration, but the economic downturn should provide proof that its not all good.

Also, there is no better way to get Brits to hate something than for the Americans to come out and love it. Its sometimes said in Canada when the US criticizes a Canadian politician, that if American really wanted to hurt him they could have just endorsed him. I wonder what effect this will have on the British debate on the EU.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. My interpretation of Mr Gordon's statement is not the same as yours. Whenever any US official mentions the so-called US/UK "special relationship" without sniggering behind their hand you know something is up.

What I read, between the lines, is that the US's waning world influence means that it can no longer dictate to EU but now has to cooperate. That the US wants to keep on using the UK as a puppet within the EU as a whole. Oh, and that "special" has its urban dictionary "village idiot" sense...

But then I'm a Brit, with all the natural inclination towards cynicism this implies.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Jordan, I had the same question - will this ringing endorsement of the EU and the veiled threat to the UK by the US make any difference?

Or is it simply a statement that if the UK counts on the US to support them against Europe, they are out of luck? Do what you like but here are the consequences.

If public opinion counted here at this level then yes, I think it would. But that is very often not the case when it comes to Europe.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@anonymous, I see your point and I like your cynicism which is justified. When I was working for a French subsidiary of an American company I used to tell my French staff to be very careful when American management came visiting. "Beware the smiling Americans," I said. Just because they grin winningly and say nice things doesn't mean they won't cut your throat in a split second.