The Foreign Secretary has a bizarre article in this week's
Spectator that suggests a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon will
wreck the Special Relationship with America. David Miliband's piece
is an example of political scaremongering at its worst, a poorly
penned attempt to justify a failed European policy that is
undermining Britain's position as a sovereign nation as well as her
ability to act effectively as a world power
Miliband launches a scathing attack on Shadow Foreign Secretary
William Hague whom he accuses of "political gamesmanship", and a
"suicidal" EU policy that risks destroying the alliance with the
United States. Hague's crime? He believes the British public should
actually have the right to vote on a European treaty with grave
implications for British sovereignty, a view backed by several
opinion polls showing a huge majority in favour of a vote on the
With an air of foreboding, Miliband warns that "if Britain moves
itself to the margins of Europe I can draw no other conclusion from
my work with the US administration than that Britain's special
relationship with the US will become a piece of historical
nostalgia - dusty bunting hauled out to adorn official occasions,
not the lifeblood of our everyday diplomatic thinking." He goes on
to say that "the UK's diplomatic, military and intelligence assets
are valuable to the US, but without the political weight to drive
Europe forward we are a far less useful ally."
In one key aspect Miliband's analysis is correct. The Foreign
Secretary has read the tea leaves well when he points out that the
new U.S. administration has adopted a distinctly pro-Brussels
approach, with strong support for Lisbon, the European Security and
Defence Policy and the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
This is the first American administration to wholeheartedly back
the development of a federal Europe and the notion of "ever-closer
union", and has invested little capital so far in the overall
relationship with Britain. A distinctly unholy alliance has
developed between Euro-federalist advisers in the Obama
administration and their counterparts in the Brown government, who
share a belief in the sanctity of the European Project.
President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Vice President
Biden have all spoken in favour of the concept of a united Europe,
based on the wholly misguided belief that a Europe that acts in
concert will spend more on defence and will be a stronger ally for
the United States. The fantasy in Washington is that the U.S. and
Europe will move in lockstep in confronting the world's threats if
only the 27 nations of the European Union could work in unison and
agree on a common position.
Miliband is flat wrong however is in his assessment of the
British national interest in Europe, as well as the implications of
an EU Treaty referendum on the future of the Special Relationship.
No matter how the Labour government tries to put a gloss on it, the
Treaty of Lisbon is a blueprint for a European superstate that will
dramatically erode British sovereignty. It is simply a reheated
version of the old Constitution, emphatically rejected by the
French and Dutch publics, and which the Labour government had
pledged to put to the country in a referendum.
Gordon Brown's decision to sign up to the Lisbon Treaty
represents an unprecedented surrender of freedom to a fundamentally
undemocratic supranational entity. Even the European Scrutiny
Committee of the House of Commons concluded that the new Treaty
leaves out just two of the old Constitution's 447 provisions.
Lisbon paves the way for the creation of a European Union Foreign
Minister at the head of an EU Foreign Service and diplomatic corps,
with Britain sacrificing its veto right over EU-decision-making in
40 policy areas. Contrary to what Miliband says, Britain will lose
influence in Europe through the Treaty, rather than gain a driving
seat at the front of the bus.
Miliband's assertion that a British referendum on the Lisbon
Treaty would threaten the future of the Anglo-American Special
Relationship is also false. In fact a referendum and a rejection of
the Treaty will be its saviour.
The U.S.-UK alliance, the most powerful and successful bilateral
alliance of the last 70 years, derives its strength from the
partnership between the world's two most powerful nations sharing a
common language, heritage, culture, economic system, and warrior
ethos. It has been forged through a shared sacrifice of blood and
treasure on the battlefields of Europe, Korea, Kuwait, Iraq and
The single greatest threat to the Special Relationship today is
posed by the loss of British independence within the European
Union, and by wrong headed White House support for a politically
integrated Europe. The alliance would be crippled if Britain does
not retain the freedom to stand alongside the United States when
and where it chooses to do so.
A British rejection of the Lisbon Treaty could derail the
European Project altogether, significantly weakening the drive
towards both political and military integration. It would be a
massive strike in defence of sovereignty and democracy in Europe,
and would force a reappraisal of strategic thinking not only in
Brussels but also in Washington as well. British Conservatives are
right to call for a referendum on a Treaty with huge implications
for Britain's future and which could ultimately shatter the Special
Gardiner is Director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre for
Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.