NEWS

Despite close ties, UK and US ‘don’t always see eye to eye on foreign policy issues’

How does the world see Britain today, especially in light of the support that Britain so often has seemed to be giving, almost without second thoughts, to America? This is a very interesting question because I think that the perception that the world has is sometimes not quite the reality. The fact is that Britain is a European country, it is a member of the EU, participating fully (and sometimes in a leading way) in a whole range of European policies and our future is a European future. That does not prevent us having close ties with the United States of America. That is a historical link and it’s one we think is important because all of the recent history of Europe and the wider world shows that when there are problems in the world they are solved most effectively when Europe and the US work together to resolve a problem rather than working at odds with each other. My second point is that perhaps this perception that the UK and the US always see eye to eye on foreign policy issues is simply wrong. If we look at events even quite recently we see some big examples of the way in which they have different perspectives on problems. [Prime Minister] Tony Blair’s foreign policy agenda as reflected in the agenda of the G-8, as reflected also in what will be our presidency of the EU in the second half of 2005 shows that we are placing a great deal of importance on issues like Africa, on climate change, on the Middle East peace process – where there have been traditionally some significant differences with the US – also on issues like Iran, where the UK, together with France and Germany, have been leading a process around negotiating with Iran over Iran’s nuclear capability, which has been very much a «made in Europe» policy which the UK has been contributing to, sometimes with some hesitation from the US. In the G-8 context we’ve seen significant disagreements between the UK and the US about how we should proceed with development assistance toward Africa, where Britain has been leading the way in trying to create a new program of assistance to Africa to help pull it out of poverty. Climate change is another issue. Britain has been among the most influential and strongest supporters of the Kyoto process and we’ve been working very hard to try to engage the US in the climate change process. So I think it would be a mistake to assume that Britain is always in exactly the same position as the US. There are some recent examples where we have found ourselves shoulder to shoulder with the US and I think that that is right. But it would be wrong to suppose that Britain has some sort of unquestioning attitude towards US policy. That is not accurate, and it wouldn’t be healthy.