4 Strategic issues |
40. Witnesses and interlocutors identified a number
of what Sir Nigel Sheinwald called "headwinds" for the
UK-US relationship. We heard that the UK's value toand
thus potential influence overthe US might decline as a
result of some of these.
These potential difficulties or vulnerabilities in the UK-US relationship
waning benefit accruing to the relationship, and in particular
to the UK's standing in the US, from the shared military mission
in Afghanistan that has been underway since 2001, as international
combat operations there conclude by the end of 2014. In October
2013, Professor Chalmers told us that "psychologically, people
are almost in late 2014 already";
· the lack in
the UK and US of a model for effective intervention in third countries
facing humanitarian catastrophe or representing a security threat,
following the ground-troops-based military interventions in Iraq
and Afghanistan since 2001, and the air campaign against the Gaddafi
regime in Libya in 2011;
· what Sir Nigel
called the UK's "debate on identity", encompassing the
questions of the UK's membership of the EU, and possible Scottish
· the potential
for UK defence cuts to lessen the UK's value to the US as a military
· the risk that
the UK will become less valuable to the US as the latter focuses
increasingly on Asia;
· the waning
strength of the UK-US historical, family, cultural and linguistic
ties that have traditionally underpinned the relationship, as
a result of demographic changes on both sides of the Atlanticwith
Asian and often Spanish-speaking Latin American communities gaining
economic and political weight in the US, and some South Asian
communities which are less prominent in the US becoming increasingly
important in the UK.
As we indicated in our Introduction, several of these
issues are also being considered by other Parliamentary committees.
We have ourselves considered the foreign policy implications for
the rump UK (RUK) of Scotland becoming an independent country,
in a Report we published in 2013. We concluded in that Report
that Scottish independence would inflict a degree of international
reputational damage on the RUK, and that any nuclear disarmament
of the RUK which might result from Scottish independence "would
be received badly by the UK's key allies", such as the US.
As our contribution to the debate here, we comment below on the
US 'pivot to Asia' and two Transatlantic issues.
US 'pivot' to Asia
41. In its March 2010 Report, our predecessor Committee
already noted that President Obama had identified himself as the
United States' "first Pacific President" and that there
was a prospect of the US shifting its foreign and security policy
focus increasingly towards Asia.
In autumn 2011, the first Obama Administration announced through
a series of speeches and articles by senior Administration figures
what it initially called a 'pivot' to Asia.
The shift in US priorities was confirmed in the January 2012 Defense
Department Defense Strategic Guidance. In terms of specific
actions, the 'pivot' comprises an increased US military presence
in Asia-Pacific; US accession to the East Asia Summit;
and the proposed conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),
a free trade agreement on which 12 regional states (not including
China) were negotiating as we conducted our inquiry.
The US 'pivot' is typically seen to be a US response to the rise
of China, to a significant extent, as well as to the scale of
prospective economic growth in Asia. The use of the word 'pivot'
prompted some US allies to express concernsin Europe, that
the US was 'decoupling' from the continent; and among US allies
in Asia, that a 'pivot' could be only a temporary, easily-reversed
step, rather than a firm security commitment.
For the term 'pivot', US policy-makers swiftly substituted 'rebalancing'.
42. Witnesses were sceptical that the US 'pivot'
would involve as large a shift in US foreign and security policy
as has sometimes been assumed:
witnesses argued that the US had been heavily engaged in Asia
since the end of World War II, and that there was therefore little
novel about the 'pivot' now. More specifically, Dr Boys argued
that former US President Bill Clinton had attempted a similar
shift of focus to Asia but had been pulled back to a more traditional
focus on Europe and the Middle East, by the pressure of events
in those regions, and by the unrewarding environmentat
least in a relatively short timeframefor US policy initiatives
in Asia. He argued that President Obama's initiative was likely
to follow the same patternand, indeed, that a more traditional
US foreign policy focus on Europe and the Middle East was already
evident under the second Obama Administration, under John Kerry
as Secretary of State rather than Hillary Clinton.
· Dr Tim Oliver,
Fritz Thyssen TAPIR Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic
Relations, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International
Studies, said: "Despite talk of an 'Asian pivot', Europeand
increasingly the EUremains crucial to US economic, security
and political interests".
More specifically, Xenia Dormandy said that the US would continue
to keep significant military forces in Europe, and both she and
Professor Chalmers said that Europe remained of key strategic
value to the US as a basing and staging location for military
deployments and operations elsewhere.
Sir Nigel Sheinwald said that, in his understanding, the US 'pivot'
had arisen primarily from the opportunity afforded by the end
of US combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and had little
to do with US policy towards Europe.
· Lord Howell
was sceptical that any state could now prioritise one region over
any other in its foreign policy, given the degree of interdependence
that he saw as integral to what he identified as a "networked
world". In particular, he argued that US security continued
to be heavily tied to the Middle East.
For its part, the FCO said that the US 'pivot' did
not entail any lessening of US engagement with Europe or the Middle
East. On our own
visit to Washington in autumn 2013, we gained little sense that
the Asia 'rebalance' meant that US policy-makers were disengaging
from other parts of the worldthe Middle East, above all.
Rather, our impression was that US policy-makers still saw the
US as having interests engaged in many parts of the globe, and
sought UK and European support in defending and promoting them
where they were shared in common.
43. Inasmuch as the US 'pivot' does involve a shift
in US attention and resources towards Asia, the FCO told us that
it was in accord with the UK Government's own effort to build
the UK's diplomatic and economic ties to emerging powers and regions,
beyond the traditional Transatlantic area.
The FCO presented Asia as an area where the US and UK should,
and would, cooperate more closely in future.
The FCO also said that it was seeking to encourage more of the
other EU Member States also to increase their engagement with
Asia. At the same
time, the FCO said that the strengthened UK and US focus on Asia
and their traditional Transatlantic alliance were complementary
rather than alternatives: "the stronger our relationships
are elsewhere in the world", it told us, "the more we
can do to support each other as allies".
44. Xenia Dormandy agreed with the FCO that Asia
was an area where the UK and US Governments could do more together,
although she identified the region as one where a lack of strategic
collaboration meant that the UK and US were missing out on opportunities
(see paragraphs 82-92 in Chapter 5).
Professor Richard Rose argued that, compared to the US, the UK
had distinctive historical relationships in parts of Asiaincluding
Australia, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan and Singaporethat
put it at an advantage compared to the US. As a consequence, he
argued that the UK had no need to rely on the US in the region,
and that it could bring these distinctive assets to bear on UK-US
45. Witnesses also identified Asia as an area where
there were differences between the US and UK Government approaches,
of the sort that we identified in paragraphs 20-22 (in Chapter
2) as likely to arise from the differences between the two states'
geographic and strategic positions. Witnesses saw the UK Government's
approach to Asia as being driven primarily by commercial considerations,
whereas the US approach weighed security considerations much more
Dormandy and Sir Nigel Sheinwald both suggested that the UK Government
needed to decide, in Sir Nigel's words, "whether its Asia
pivot is overwhelmingly commercial, or whether there are political,
security and economic policy elements to it as well".
As matters stood, Ms Dormandy told us that the UK Government's
approach had "caused some concern" in the US.
46. The divergence between UK and US Government approaches
applied above all to China. Professor Robin Porter, who was Counsellor
in the UK Embassy in Beijing in 2002-2005, said that the emergence
of any sense of joint security responsibility for Asia between
the US and China would be good for UK interests there; but that,
at present, China was preoccupied by the military dimension of
the US 'pivot', which it saw "as a renewal of 'containment'
at one remove" and as "potentially hostile".
Bruce Stokes of the Pew Research Center also highlighted differences
between the US and UK public views of China: in Pew's most recent
polling, 52% of Americans had an unfavourable view of China, compared
to 31% of Britons; and 44% of Americans saw China as a threat,
compared to 29% of Britons.
47. Witnesses appeared to differ on the extent to
which the different approaches taken to China by the UK and US
Governments represented a problem:
Dormandy appeared to be more inclined to see the divergence as
a potential obstacle to UK-US strategic cooperation in Asia.
· Professor Porter
and Lord Howell urged the UK Government to maintain a distance
from US security policy in Asia, inasmuch as China might see the
latter as threatening. Lord Howell advised the UK Government to
adhere to a focus on its own commercial and political relationships
in the region.
Jeffries Briginshaw, Managing Director (London) of BritishAmerican
Business, told us thatbecause the proposed EU-US Transatlantic
Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) was one plank in a US
global trade policy that also included the Transpacific Partnership,
which excludes Chinathere was a risk that by supporting
TTIP the UK might be seen in Beijing as supporting a US policy
48. We doubt that the US 'pivot' to Asia is likely
to involve as great a shift in US foreign and security policy
attention and resources as has sometimes been suggested. Inasmuch
as the US is increasing its engagement in Asia, we agree with
the FCO that this may be in accord with the UK Government's own
shift of attention and resources to the region, and that it need
not be to the detriment of the Transatlantic relationship. However,
Asiaand particularly Chinais an area where differences
may open up between the UK and US Government approaches, with
the UK Government giving priority to commercial factors, and the
US approach driven more heavily by security considerations.
Transatlantic Trade and Investment
49. The idea of an EU-US free trade agreement has
been mooted periodically over many years. At present, the EU and
US grant each other no preferential trading terms beyond Most-Favoured
Nation (MFN) status.
In November 2011, the EU and US agreed to create a High-Level
Working Group to examine the potential of and for a deal; and
in his February 2013 State of the Union address President Obama
revealed that the two sides had agreed to launch negotiations
for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The
deal could be the largest bilateral free trade agreement ever
concluded. The start of the talks was announced at the G8 summit
in Lough Erne in June 2013, and the fourth round was being held
as we prepared this Report in March 2014.
50. In 2013, the Government expressed the hope that
the talks might be concluded within 18-24 months of their launch
(that is, by late 2014 or the first half of 2015).
The FCO's Kate Smith reaffirmed this ambition in evidence to us
in December 2013.
Elisabeth Roderburg, TTIP Adviser to BritishAmerican Business,
thought that mid-2015 was the most likely date for the conclusion
of an agreement, and put the likelihood of a deal before the end
of 2015 at over 50%.
However, in February 2014, the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP, Minister
without Portfolio, appeared to indicate some potential slippage
in this timetable, telling the House that the Government hoped
to complete the negotiations "by the end of 2015 or early
2016", before the next US Presidential election in autumn
2016. A key factor
affecting TTIP timing may be whether Congress grants President
Obama 'fast-track' negotiating authority, under which the legislature
agrees to put international trade deals, once reached, only to
a relatively swift 'up or down' ratification vote. The President's
'fast-track' authority lapsed in 2007, and as we prepared this
report Congress was blocking his request for a renewal, apparently
with an eye to opposition to various aspects of the proposed Transpacific
and Transatlantic free trade deals ahead of the November 2014
Congressional mid-term elections.
51. The scope and content of any TTIP deal remain
subject to significant uncertainty. The negotiations are expected
to encompass market access, regulatory issues and non-tariff barriers,
and what the High-Level Working Group called "rules, principles,
and new modes of cooperation to address shared global trade challenges
On both sides of the Atlantic, and including in the UK, politicians
and representative and interest organisations have expressed concerns
about the potential impact of an agreement in a wide range of
fields, such as the NHS in the UK.
The FCO's Kate Smith told us that the complexity of the potential
agreement meant that the two sides had their "work cut out
to conclude" it.
However, the Government has suggested that an "ambitious"
TTIP could increase UK GDP by up to £10 billion a year, or
to analysis produced for the European Commission, such a deal
could, when fully implemented, increase the annual GDP of the
EU as a whole by 0.5% and of the US by 0.4%.
52. Xenia Dormandy told us that TTIP was "likely
to be the most significant initiative the US engages with Europe
on (including the UK) in the coming years".
Witnesses and interlocutors identified three respects in which
TTIP, if it were concluded, could have an international strategic
impact that would be of benefit to the Transatlantic alliance:
the context of the post-2008 recession in the developed world,
renewed and sustained economic growth in the EU and US at higher
levels would itself be of strategic significance.
· The regulatory
rules and standards set in TTIP could, as a result of the combined
economic weight of the US and EU, make their impact felt in the
rest of the world, including among emerging economies with typically
lower standards such as China. In this respect, TTIP could help
the US and EU to reassert their influence in the global economy.
· TTIP might
provide a renewed underpinning for the Transatlantic alliance.
Dr Niblett raised the prospect that the US "may [...] detach
somewhat strategically from NATO", in which case he suggested
that a "constant process of regulatory negotiation, convergence
and debate" arising from TTIP might take its place.
Dr Oliver similarly suggested that TTIP might cause "the
centre of gravity in Transatlantic relations [to] shift further
from NATO towards the US-EU relationship".
These potential features of TTIP accorded with the
reasons that the Government has presented to explain its support
for the initiative. The Government also places TTIP at the centre
of its agenda for a reformed EU.
53. We agree with the Government that the proposed
EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could
have significant positive strategic impact for the UKby
boosting EU and US economic growth, providing a renewed underpinning
for the Transatlantic relationship, and exerting influence over
the global trade and economic system.
THE UK'S EU MEMBERSHIP
54. In January 2013, the Prime Minister announced
that, if there were a Conservative Government in the UK after
the 2015 General Election, it would hold a referendum on whether
the UK should remain a member of the EU.
As a result of the Prime Minister's speech, the possibility of
a UK exit from the EU has become a matter for mainstream policy
discussion in the UK and abroad.
55. The US Administration, and our interlocutors
when we visited the US, have made clear that the decision about
continued EU membership is one for the UK. However, in January
2013, Philip Gordon, the United States' then Assistant Secretary
for European and Eurasian Affairs, said publicly that it was in
the United States' interest for there to be a "strong UK
voice in a strong European Union".
The White House let it be known that President Obama repeated
this message to the Prime Minister in a telephone call later the
same month. In
its submission to us, the US Embassy described the EU as "the
world's most important organisation to which the United States
does not belong". It wrote:
The United States has its own close ties to the
EU and does not need the UK to serve as a 'bridge' to the organisation.
But common US-UK attitudes towards world trade, development policy,
the value of international sanctions, and other issues, often
find an expression within the EU through UK membership, to the
benefit of both the United States and the EU.
Dr Oliver stated simply that "from Washington's
perspective, having a pro-American UK in the EU enhances the prospects
of the EU being a reliable American partner with whom it can defend
and advance common interests".
Xenia Dormandy told us that the possibility of a UK exit from
the EU was of "significant concern to US policy-makers".
56. Dr Oliver argued that a UK exit from the EU would
trigger two changes for the US, both of which would be unfavourable
for it, namely:
changed EU/Europe. Dr
Oliver said that the EU is "a partner the US increasingly
looks towards working with". However, he suggested that,
with the UK outside the EU, Europe would be more divided, and
the EU would be more inward-looking and protectionist, and more
likely to give rise to fears in the US about the EU's development
and capabilitiesfor example, in terms of its capacity to
engage with geostrategic challenges. On defence, Dr Oliver speculated
that, without the UK, the EU might develop stronger internal cooperation,
but might also be even less capable than at present of shouldering
its share of the Transatlantic security burden.
ii) A changed
UK. Dr Oliver expected that, if the UK
were to leave the EU, UK-US economic, intelligence, nuclear and
defence links would continue. However, he felt that, under these
circumstances, the US would have a partner in the UK that would
have a "reduced" geopolitical position and that would
"still [be] facing painful dilemmas about its role in the
For these reasons, Dr Oliver suggested that a UK
exit might represent a "lose-lose scenario" for the
57. Witnesses said that, in US eyes, the current
questioning of the UK's EU membership was especially unwelcome
given its conjunction with the TTIP negotiations. Xenia Dormandy
said that the US wanted to see the UK "driving the agenda
for the EU" on TTIP and that in this context "current
British wariness of [the EU] causes some regrets".
Jeffries Briginshaw of BritishAmerican Business told us similarly
that "everybody not in the UK wants the UK to be a driving
force within TTIP".
Dr Oliver sketched a possible scenario in whichif the TTIP
negotiations were protracted into 2015 or beyondthe possible
renegotiation of the UK's EU status might undermine the TTIP talks,
which in turn might undermine the case for the UK's continued
EU membership, which in turn might further affect TTIP.
58. As a result of the question mark over the UK's
continued EU membership, several witnesses suggested that the
UK would start to lose influence in the US, at least in relation
to other EU Member States. Dr Niblett said that the US would start
to "hedge" against a possible UK exit by developing
its relations with other Member States on issues of importance
59. If the UK were to leave the EU, we believe
that it would continue to have a close and valuable relationship
with the US. However, the evidence we have received and discussions
we have had have left us in little doubt that US policy-makers
would prefer to see the UK remain an EU Member.
143 Q85 [Sir Nigel Sheinwald] Back
Q85 [Sir Nigel Sheinwald]; Xenia Dormandy (USA 04) para 16. On
the Libya operation, see Foreign Affairs Committee, Second Report
of Session 2012-13, British foreign policy and the 'Arab Spring',
HC 80, and Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2010-12,
Operations in Libya, HC 950 Back
Qq 11 [Dr Niblett], 85 [Sir Nigel Sheinwald] Back
Qq2, 11 [Dr Niblett], 85 [Sir Nigel Sheinwald] Back
Qq11, 14 [Dr Niblett] Back
Professor Rose (USA 11) para 1.1, Professor Porter (USA 15). Our
predecessor Committee referred in its 2010 Report to the prospect
of a demographically-driven lessening of UK-US cultural affinities:
Foreign Affairs Committee, Sixth Report of Session 2009-10, Global Security: UK-US Relations,
HC 114, paras 220-222 Back
Foreign Affairs Committee, Sixth Report of Session 2012-13, Foreign policy considerations for the UK and Scotland in the event of Scotland becoming an independent country,
HC 643, paras 73-74, 121 Back
Foreign Affairs Committee, Sixth Report of Session 2009-10, Global Security: UK-US Relations,
HC 114, paras 37, 216-222 Back
"Remarks By President Obama to the Australian Parliament",
White House Office of the Press Secretary, 17 November 2011; Hillary
Clinton, "America's Pacific Century", Foreign Policy,
November 2011; Tom Donilon, "America is back in the Pacific and will uphold the rules",
Financial Times, 27 November 2011. For a detailed account,
see Congressional Research Service, "Pivot to the Pacific?
The Obama Administration's 'Rebalancing' toward Asia", 28
March 2012; Kurt Campbell and Brian Andrews, "Explaining the US 'Pivot' to Asia",
Chatham House Americas paper 2013/01, August 2013 Back
The East Asia Summit is the largest gathering of South, East and
South-East Asian and Pacific states (including China and Russia). Back
As of March 2014, the negotiating states were Australia, Brunei
Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand,
Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam. Back
Xenia Dormandy (USA 04) para 11; Gideon Rachman, "The U.S. Pivot to Asia - Should Europeans Worry?",
Centre for European Policy Analysis, 2 April 2012; "Pivotal concerns",
The Economist, 11 May 2013; Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary,
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, US Department of State,
"Transatlantic Interests in Asia", Chatham House, 13
January 2014; "2 Years In, DoD Still Explaining Asia 'Pivot'",
www.defensenews.com, 8 February 2014 Back
Q36 [Dr Boys] Back
Dr Oliver (USA 13) Summary Back
Q49 [Professor Chalmers]; Xenia Dormandy (USA 04) para 12 Back
Lord Howell (USA 17) Back
FCO (USA 12) para 48 Back
FCO (USA 12) paras 45-49. The Prime Minister made the same argument
in his evidence to the Joint Committee on the National Security
Strategy in January 2014: Oral evidence taken before the Joint
Committee on the National Security Strategy on 30 January 2014,
HC (2013-14) 1040, Q28 Back
Qq 148-150 [Mr Robertson] Back
FCO (USA 12) para 46. On the EU response to the US Asia 'pivot',
see Rem Korteweg, "Europe cannot make up its mind about the US pivot",
Centre for European Reform, 27 September 2013. Back
FCO (USA 12) para 20 Back
Xenia Dormandy (USA 04) paras 10, 13, 15 Back
Professor Rose (USA 11) paras 4.3-4.6 Back
Q14 [Dr Niblett] Back
Q85. The European Council on Foreign Relations identified the
UK's pursuit of a "commercially driven diplomacy" with
respect to China as one of the most notable features of its foreign
policy performance in 2013; ECFR, European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2014,
p 16. Back
Xenia Dormandy (USA 04) paras 8-9, 15. Back
Professor Porter (USA 15) Back
Bruce Stokes (USA 16) Back
Xenia Dormandy (USA 04) paras 9, 15 Back
Professor Porter (USA 15), Lord Howell (USA 17) Back
Qq70, 73 Back
Q65 [Ms Roderburg] Back
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, evidence to the
Sub-Committee on External Affairs of the House of Lords EU Committee,
inquiry into the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,
evidence volume, p 45 Back
Qq 76-78 Back
HC Deb, 25 February 2014, col 210 Back
"Top Democrat puts Obama trade deals in doubt", Financial
Times, 30 January 2014 Back
High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth, Final Report, 11
February 2011 Back
See the evidence given to the Sub-Committee on External Affairs
of the House of Lords EU Committee, inquiry into the Transatlantic
Trade and Investment Partnership, published on its website at
FCO (USA 12) para 81 Back
Centre for Economic Policy Research, "Reducing Transatlantic Barriers to Trade and Investment: An Economic Assessment",
March 2013 Back
Xenia Dormandy (USA 04) para 6 Back
Q18 [Dr Niblett] Back
Q18 [Dr Niblett] Back
Dr Oliver (USA 13) para 14 Back
Qq154, 160 [Kate Smith]; Department for Business, Innovation and
Skills, evidence to the Sub-Committee on External Affairs of the
House of Lords EU Committee, inquiry into the Transatlantic Trade
and Investment Partnership, evidence volume, p 45; William Hague,
speech to BritishAmerican Business event, Lancaster House, 13
September 2013 Back
David Cameron, speech at Bloomberg HQ, London, 23 January 2013 Back
"Obama administration warns Britain to stay in the European Union",
The Independent, 9 January 2013 Back
"Readout of the President's Call with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom",
White House Office of the Press Secretary, 17 January 2013 Back
US Embassy in London (USA 20) Back
Dr Oliver (USA 13) para 14 Back
Xenia Dormandy (USA 04) para 5 Back
Dr Oliver (USA 13) paras 6-7, 9-14, 19 Back
Dr Oliver (USA 13) paras 21, 24 Back
Dr Oliver (USA 13) para 8 Back
Xenia Dormandy (USA 04) para 6 Back
Dr Oliver (USA 13) paras 16-17 Back