Thursday, 28 April 2016
With friends like that....
It’s such a shame for those poor Tories and Ukippers who want the UK to leave the EU. There they were twenty two months or so ago, all happy that Barack Obama had intervened in the Scottish independence referendum to tell those uppity Jocks to get back into their shortbread tin and to close the lid behind them. It was a statesmanlike intervention on a matter of international security, they sagely nodded. Only now he’s intervened in the UK Brexit debate, and all of a sudden they’ve discovered that it’s really not on for a foreign head of state to interfere in an internal UK matter. To which any self-respecting supporter of Scottish independence can only say: "ha ha ha"
I’m just being honest, said Obama, in what was something of a departure for an American politician, as he slapped down Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Liam Fox and Nigel Farage. Obama hasn’t just intervened in the Brexit debate, he’s not just weighed in with a shovel. He’s weighed in with a JCB. He’s delivered a strong statement that if the UK wants to leave the EU then the USA will relegate it to the back of the queue when it comes to negotiating a trade deal. Only Americans don’t use the word queue, they stand in line. And a post-Brexit Britain will be standing in line with Bolivia, Belarus, and Bhutan waiting for the USA to get around to allowing us to import Hershey bars. Although why anyone would want to import Hershey bars is a bit of a mystery, because Americans don’t just not use the word queue, they also make some seriously awful chocolate. Be that as it may, there will be no Hershey bars, Oreos, Twinkies or Cheerios for a post-Brexit Britain. Well, yes there will, of course, but you got the man’s drift. Brexit is bad; very, very bad.
It’s unlikely that people are going to be swayed in their view on how to vote in June by what the American president says. But it’s still funny to watch the discomfort of Tories and neo-conservative Little Englanders who were quite happy for him to intervene when he was on the same side as them during the Scottish independence referendum but now they’re upset because he doesn’t share their opinion on Europe and are discovering that their so-called special relationship with America isn’t really that special after all. The USA only has a special relationship with the UK in as much as it's in the USA's interests, and the USA sees its interests being best served by a UK that’s a member of the EU.
The only people who ever speak about a special relationship between the USA and the UK are British politicians. I bet it doesn’t even figure on the radar of the average American, most of whom are not of British descent and have no particular emotional or historical ties to the UK. The idea that Britain can leave the EU and form some sort of close relationship to the USA is a fantasy. Few in America are interested. On the rare occasions that the UK impinges on the consciousness of the average American, they think of bad teeth, Princess Di and driving on the wrong side of the road.
For the USA the value of the UK is as a part of a strong and united Europe. That’s what they’re concerned about, and a UK which left the EU would result in a weaker Europe and a weaker UK. But they don’t care that much whether that united Europe consists of the current 28 member states, or if it increases to 29 with the addition of an independent Scotland, as long as it stays united.