David Miliband is Wrong About the Lisbon Treaty

COMMENTARY Global Politics

David Miliband is Wrong About the Lisbon Treaty

May 8, 2009 3 min read
Nile Gardiner, PhD

Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow

Nile Gardiner is Director of The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow.

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 issue.

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 Afghanistan.

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 Relationship.

Nile Gardiner is Director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.

First Appeared in Telegraph(UK)