The Corner

The Tories and the U.S.

David Frum, as you’d expect, makes some sharp and perceptive points about the direction of the Tory party, and I’ll try to return to them in detail later. For now, it’s worth stressing that William Hague (the Conservatives’ foreign-affairs spokesman) is no enthusiast for Brussels, nor is he ceasing to be the Atlanticist he has always been. Here, via Tory Diary, is part of a speech he made in February: 

In the British Conservative Party, we have had a long period in opposition but we are now preparing for government again. Before we come into government, we want to have the deepest possible understanding of how foreign policy should be conducted and in doing so we are looking at many questions afresh. But in one thing we are clear from the onset: our relationship with the United States is central to our foreign policy, and will be one of deep and enduring partnership….Some policy makers in Washington have continued to support every effort towards closer European integration, even in the field of foreign affairs and defence. The assumption has been that a unified Europe would inevitably prove more pro-Atlanticist, and more pro-American; in other words that a wholly integrated Europe is in the US interest.  Today, however, following the transatlantic rift over the Iraq war and disagreements over Afghanistan, such an analysis is at odds with the reality of the post Cold War transatlantic relationship. America’s interests are best served when European states act flexibly according to their national interest.

The magic words in all this are “national interest.” As a British politician, Hague naturally feels that he should put British interests first, not American, and certainly not “European,” whatever those might be. I’d expect that an American politician would feel the same way about American interests. If you read the other extracts from Hague’s speech, you’ll see that he is at times very critical of some aspects of U.S. conduct (it won’t make comfortable reading), but his criticisms are those of a concerned friend, and a friend who, have no doubt, wants to see progress in the overall conflict with Islamic extremism, and that, in the end, should be what counts. 

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