Barack Obama is becoming increasingly brazen in his insistence that the UK must remain within the EU. It is saddening, if unsurprising, that official US policy towards its “greatest ally” is to compel it to remain within a political union that subjects it to rule by a foreign body. Those Americans (and there are less of them than you think) who do care about the alliance with Britain should consider how they would feel in our situation.
Would they like to a part of supranational political union with Canada and Latin America that abolishes borders across the American continent? Would they have a supranational parliament and an unelected commission sitting in Mexico City ruling over the White House? Imagine the outrage amongst Americans if laws and regulations were passed down from a government higher than their own, and then implemented in a castrated Congress!
After two devastating wars, US foreign policy and European ideologues were driven by a belief that the best solution for the troublesome war torn continent was to tie European countries together. This desire to create a united Europe modelled on its own image is what motivates the current administration to interfere in British affairs as the referendum draws near.
A single European state is easier to interact with diplomatically and acts as a better conduit for US foreign policy. This was exemplified by US support for a politically loaded association agreement between the EU and Ukraine, designed to end Ukraine’s neutral status and bring it within the sphere of influence of the EU, and therefore the US.
Nurturing a power bloc on Russia’s doorstep and tying Europe together takes precedence over the so-called “special relationship”. There is no sentiment in this relationship, no affection; it is based on the cold, logical self-interest of the United States. This is why the US administration has little time for the concerns of British eurosceptics.
We want to conserve the independence of our legal system. We want to control our own foreign, economic, security and immigration policy. We want to restore the sovereignty of Parliament and ensure our politicians are accountable to the electorate. We want to revive and repair our frayed and decaying democracy. These desires are all in keeping with the centuries old motivations that used to inform our policy towards the continent, which is the source of all our prosperity, liberty and cultural distinctiveness.
It is a real shame that these desires inspire so little interest, let alone sympathy in the United States, especially in the higher echelons of power. To many American politicians Britain is little more than “airstrip one” and no more important than any other country. This is especially true amongst Democrats who place little value in our shared cultural heritage and history.
However, one would hope that principled American conservatives will see the importance of an independent Britain. They should champion the conservation of our culture of liberty, law, government and economic freedom. These are the foundations we began to build in North America from 1607 onwards, upon which the United States was built. They are the common traits that bind us, and they transcend the cynical realities of politics and foreign policy.
In Britain they are being eroded by EU integration. When these common bonds are dissolved the United States will lose a friend, and a partnership that muscularly promotes the values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law to the world will be lost forever. Any patriotic American conservative should instinctively understand this.
The British people should not be swayed by the self-interested proclamations of Barack Obama, who has zero affection for this country, let alone the “special relationship”. They should be sceptical about an overtly anti-British president that has greatly diminished US influence in the world advising us on how to retain influence on the world stage.
Let’s be clear about what’s at stake here, the status-quo is not an option in the upcoming referendum. The most influential voices in Europe want to press forward with deeper integration: full economic union, a harmonised legal system and a common defence and foreign policy.
There is a transition underway, from nation-state democracy to the creation of a federal European state. If you vote “yes” imagining we can avoid being drawn in, you are fooling yourself. Over the past two decades we have been on a path of ever closer union and this will continue apace after an endorsement with a “yes” vote.
Britain faces the choice between integration into a centralised European state or regaining its status as an independent, free trading, liberal democracy. We cannot be influential on the world stage as a province with less independence than a US state, which is where we will be within a decade if we make the wrong choice.
A “no” vote does not have to be a leap into the great unknown. To find our new role we should open up our economy to the world, proudly take our seat at the World Trade Organisation, join the European Free Trade Association and then strengthen our links with our cultural cousins and allies of the Anglosphere.
In joining the EEC we narrowed our major trade networks and surrendered every Britons’ right to free movement between the UK and Commonwealth nations. After we turned away from the Commonwealth so much trust and good will was lost, but our strong personal and cultural ties still remain.
Rather than being diminished over time, and by integration into the EU, they have been strengthened by the new age of internet driven globalisation. The English speaking peoples are forming new bonds which can be strengthened further; our national ties can be revived.
Economic cooperation between the UK and Canada is increasing, with our financial sector and technical capabilities already playing a significant role in their economy. The notion, prevalent in the post-war drive to pivot the UK to Europe, that Australia is too distant to form the basis of a close economic relationship has been proven short-sighted and false by the nature of modern globalisation. If Britain regained its independence, measures could be taken to substantially deepen these relationships.
The US and the UK have long been financial partners, as well as being strong military and intelligence allies. As the homes of the world’s greatest financial centres – and as major investors and recipients of foreign investment – the US and the UK have a lot to gain from promoting economic freedom around the world, something which we would be in a better position to do if we were not a member of a protectionist customs union, and a stifling political union.
Our economies are closely linked and share many interests. In 2012 the UK invested $487 billion in the US – nearly $200 billion more than the next largest investor representing over 18% of the $2.7 trillion in foreign direct investment held in the US. The total stock of direct investment by US companies into the UK economy is valued at over $508 billion.
This is while we are members of the EU; imagine the possibilities if we could set our own trade policy! If the UK had a seat at the WTO, led the way in the EFTA, and could sign its own free trade deals, the possibilities for cooperation are huge.
During the late nineties and early noughties there was much discussion on the American right of Britain becoming a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Condoleeza Rice, President Bush’s foreign policy adviser, said back in 1999 “Were the British to come and say with a unified voice, ‘We’d like to join NAFTA,’ I don’t think there would be any objection.” It is difficult to believe such a desire would be resisted in the future. Britain re-joining the north Atlantic economic community would be beneficial for all concerned.
This is a stark example of the restrictions EU membership imposes on us. Britain could enjoy free trade with the EU after being accepted into NAFTA, but it cannot do the reverse. NAFTA does not seek to integrate members into a political union, nor does it impose a utopian vision of a unified social policy. In-fact, NAFTA would have no effect on our domestic social policy but it would bring in extra revenue to pay for our policies.
Strengthened economic and political ties between Britain, the US, Canada and Australia would give a new lease of life to the Anglosphere and its shared virtues. All the beacons of the free world would have a renewed sense of purpose. Together we can be global champions of economic freedom, trade, liberty and democracy and help grow our own economies while spreading prosperity.
This may sound like sentimentality, but it isn’t. This is not based on a doughy eyed view of the “special relationship”, or an over estimation of the capacity of our politicians for foresight and imagination. The possibilities I’ve described would be almost naturally occurring
The UK should secede from the EU and join EFTA in order to retain access to the single market and act as a low tax, business friendly gateway to Europe. EFTA membership also has the advantage of immediate access to numerous new markets as EFTA members have free trade deals with China and Singapore, amongst others, unlike the EU.
A pivot to the Anglosphere would be a natural next step, further developing our economic relationship with the US, Canada and Australia is the obvious policy to pursue. If we then take advantage of having an independent trade policy by creating a trade association with India and other viable Commonwealth countries, Britain can make a great success of independence.
The US policy of propping up the euro, and encouraging closer union while discouraging British independence from Brussels is short-sighted and unimaginative. If we vote to stay in the European Union, this isn’t a vote for the status quo but a green light for “ever closer union” and deep integration. We will seal our fate. Ultimately, a Britain that is unable to act independently will be far more limited ally to the United States.
This post is part of a series discussing the European Union. Read more: