Wednesday, 21 October 2009

US Alarmed by Cameron’s Europe Moves

It looks like worries about a future Tory government aren’t limited to Paris and Berlin. Reports are circulating today that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern last week during her visit to Europe over David Cameron’s increasingly combative stance toward the EU, saying the US is worried that the “direction of travel” from what will most likely be the next governing party of the UK could lead to a rupture between Britain and the rest of Europe.

Her concern is not in isolation. The Obama administration has been increasingly questioning the wisdom of Tory leader David Cameron’s recent hostile moves toward Europe, including his decision to take the Tories out of the main centre-right grouping in the European Parliament to form a new alliance with hard-right Eastern European parties and his antagonism toward the Lisbon Treaty. The Times reports today that the US Ambassador to Britain has also been voicing alarm over Cameron’s Europe plans, and that Jewish groups within the Democratic Party are expressing alarm over Cameron’s new ties to anti-Semitic politicians in Poland.

The concerns are further evidence that the Obama administration considers the so-called “special relationship” (a term I’ve never heard used in the US, though it is used almost obsessively in the UK) to be obsolete, and would prefer a united Europe to deal with in foreign policy. This is a sea change from the previous US administration, which notoriously used the idea of the “special relationship” to drive a wedge between the UK and Europe in the run-up to the Iraq war. As The Times notes,

“[Obama] believes that Britain should be at the heart of Europe — a position that has been put in doubt by French and German anger over Mr Cameron’s decision to sever ties with the federalist centre right grouping in the Strasbourg Parliament. Mr Obama is enthusiastic about the idea of a permanent EU president to replace the revolving chairmanship of the EU council, a measure opposed by the Conservatives.”
Wheras the Bush administration was hostile toward the EU and seemed to repeatedly seek to undermine it, the Obama administration has so far been an enthusiastic supporter, as demonstrated by Hillary Clinton’s speech in Brussels earlier this year. In fact I think I could without hyperbole call Obama a European federalist. He wants a strong, united Europe as a partner in combating terrorism, dealing with the financial crisis and providing a counterweight to China.

The administration’s reported comments seem to suggest that Obama has little patience for European leaders who cow-tow to old instincts of nationalism and divisiveness. And he has also demonstrated impatience with some of the more archaic, slow-moving aspects of the EU, and is likely eager for the streamlined reforms the Lisbon Treaty will bring about. Of course this is just speculation, but it’s what his administration’s statements and behaviour seem to suggest.


Björn said...

The British should remember that it was the TORIES who signed the UK up to the treaty which actually did give the EU more powers - the Maastricht Treaty. Cameron's protestrations about the Lisbon Treaty, a simple streamlining reform effort, is a day late and a dollar short. It's pure populism and it's an attempt to exploit the lack of EU knowledge in the British electorate in order to win votes. It's sickening.

Anonymous said...

The Brits have long preferred to be the 51st state rather than be part of Europe, but looks like even that isn't an option for them anymore as the Yanks don't want them! Since they do whatever the US says, maybe now that America is telling them to cooperate with Europe they actually will!

french derek said...

It will be interesting to see how Cameron, if elected, chooses to advance - by "hard-ball" politics, or by pragmatism.

If the latter, it will be interesting to watch how he plays this.

NB björn it was Mme Thatcher - she so beloved of the Tory party - who initiated many of the changes that were incorporated into Maastricht. I agree with your assessment, though. At least Mme Thatcher had a solid grasp of the facts.