UK Can’t Have Two Best Friends
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton writes an open letter to the Brits telling them, essentially, that they must choose between the United States and the European Union.
[S]aying that the UK’s “single most important bilateral relationship” is with America, but is not comparable with UK membership of the EU, is a clever but ultimately meaningless dodge. Drop the word “bilateral”. What is Britain’s most important “relationship”? Does Mr Brown regard the EU as a “state under construction”, as some EU supporters proclaim, or not?
The answers to these questions are what Washington really needs to know. What London needs to know is that its answer will have consequences.
For example, why does a “union” with a common foreign and security policy, and with the prospect of a real “foreign minister” have two permanent seats on the UN Security Council and often as many as three non-permanent seats out of a total of 15 council members? France and Britain may not relish the prospect of giving up their unique status, but what is it that makes them different — as members of the “Union” — from Luxembourg or Malta? One Union, one seat.
Mr Brown cannot have it both ways (nor will President Nicolas Sarkozy), in part because many other EU members will not let the matter rest. Of course, the Security Council permanent seat itself is not the real issue — it is the question of whether Britain still has sovereignty over its foreign policy or whether it has simply taken its assigned place in the EU food chain.
Consider also the US-UK intelligence relationship. Fundamental to that relationship is that pooled intelligence is not shared with others without mutual consent. Tension immediately arises in EU circles, however, when Britain advocates policies based on intelligence that other EU members do not have. How tempting it must already be for British diplomats to “very privately” reveal what they know to European colleagues. How does Mr Brown feel about sharing US intelligence with other Europeans?
States have multiple alliances and overlapping interests. To the extent the EU is a free trade zone, the UK’s membership no more impinges on its “special relationship” with the US than our membership in NAFTA harms the UK. But, yes, if the EU becomes something like “The United States of Europe,” with the UK a mere semi-autonomous region within a federal collective, Bolton’s concerns are justified.
There are some on the Continent who would like to see that happen. The UK, historically, has been perhaps the most sovereignty conscious state in Europe. Indeed, it was very late addition to the predecessor European Economic Community and has been dragged kicking and screaming to most expansions. It still hasn’t adopted the Euro, preferring control over its own currency. One can scarcely imagine, then, that they will suddenly let their foreign policy be dominated by Europe to the detriment of their relationship with the US.