March 28, 2010
The British House of Commons all-party Foreign Affairs Committee has concluded that the phrase “the special relationship” no longer reflects the current Anglo-American relationship. The MPs believe the link to be “profound and valuable” but the British government needs to be “less deferential” towards the US and more willing to say no to Washington.
The committee regards the use of the phrase “in its historical sense, to describe the totality of the ever-evolving UK-US relationship”,as “potentially misleading,” and the committee recommended that its use be avoided. “The overuse of the phrase by some politicians and many in the media serves simultaneously to de-value its meaning and to raise unrealistic expectations about the benefits the relationship can deliver to the UK.”
“The perception that the British government was a subservient ‘poodle’ to the US administration leading up to the period of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath is widespread both among the British public and overseas,” the committee said. “This perception, whatever its relation to reality, is deeply damaging to the reputation and interests of the UK.”
The committee stated that: “The UK needs to be less deferential and more willing to say no to the US on those issues where the two countries’ interests and values diverge…”The UK’s relationship should be principally driven by the UK’s national interests within individual policy areas. It needs to be characterised by a hard-headed political approach to the relationship and a realistic sense of the UK’s limits.”
It is astonishing that the committee, without having to make any such decision should seek to end the use of the term “special relationship”, coined in 1946 by Winston Churchill in his famous ‘iron curtain’ speech. Of course, the committee is only facing up to the reality.
Author : Stanley Crossick