Foreign Affairs Committee: Press Notice

28 March 2010

Global Security: UK-US relations

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee today (Sunday 28 March) publishes its report: Global Security: UK-US Relations, the first time the Committee has looked specifically into the topic of relations between the United Kingdom and the United States since 2001.

Chair of the Committee, Mike Gapes MP, says

"The UK needs to adopt a more hard-headed political approach towards our relationship with the US with a realistic sense of our own limits and our national interests.

"Certainly the UK must continue to position itself closely alongside the US but there is a need to be less deferential and more willing to say no where our interests diverge. In a sense, the UK foreign policy approach this Committee is advocating is in many ways similar to the more pragmatic tone which President Obama has adopted towards the UK.

"The UK and US have a close and valuable relationship not only in terms of intelligence and security but also in terms of our profound and historic cultural and trading links and commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law. But the use of the phrase 'the special relationship' in its historical sense, to describe the totality of the ever-evolving UK-US relationship, is potentially misleading, and we recommend that its use should be avoided.

"Yes, we have a special relationship with the US, but we must remember that so too do other countries including regional neighbours, strategic allies and partners. British and European politicians have been guilty of over-optimism about the extent of influence they have over the US. We must be realistic and accept that globalisation, structural changes and shifts in geopolitical power will inevitably affect the UK-US relationship. It is entirely logical for the US to pursue relationships with other partners who can provide support that the UK cannot. Having said that, recent minor disagreements between the UK and US do not threaten the relationship. Rather they highlight a need for better understanding between our governments to maintain its strength.

"It is likely that the extent of political influence which the UK has exercised on US decision-making as a consequence of its military commitments is likely to diminish. Over the longer-term the UK is unlikely to be able to influence the US to the extent it has in the past.

"We must be mindful of the FCO's high reputation in the US which is currently under threat through unacceptable financial pressure from the Treasury. Having previously shed fat and muscle, the FCO's US network is now being forced to cut into bone. Any additional cuts will diminish the FCO's ability to exercise influence in the US and have a knock-on effect on the UK's global standing."

Notes for editors:

1. The Foreign Affairs Committee's Report on Global Security: UK-US relations is being published at 00.01hrs Greenwich Mean Time on Sunday 28 March 2010 (one minute past midnight on Sunday) and will be the Committee's Sixth Report of Session 2009-10 (HC 114).

2. Read our conclusions and recommendations.

Media enquiries:

Members of the press with enquiries should contact Alex Paterson, Select Committee Media Officer, on 020 7219 1589, or 07917 488488, or by email to patersona@parliament.uk