Trump policies should push Britain to reduce its ties to US, say peers

Sir Peter Westmacott in the Guardian – 18/12/2018

Britain must downgrade its “bedrock” reliance on the US and recognise that the Trump administration is seeking to undermine British efforts to tackle the most critical challenges facing the world, a committee of peers has said.

The Lords international relations committee said the Trump administration’s actions on issues including the Paris climate change deal, the Iran nuclear accord and steel tariffs had been “contrary to the interests of the UK”.

After taking evidence over the past year from some of the country’s most senior diplomats, national security experts and foreign policy specialists, the committee says the UK needs to develop alliances elsewhere around the globe, including within Europe, to maintain reformed multilateral institutions. If it does not it will risk a form of “global anarchy” gripping the world in fields such as trade, in turn “leading to worse things – as was the hideous story of the 1930s”.

The committee, which is chaired by the former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Howell and includes the former Foreign Office diplomat Lord Hannay, challenged a claim by the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, that Trump was “seeking to reform, rather than disrupt and destroy the United Nations”. The committee said it took a more sceptical view and urged the government to “continue to resist US challenges to the UN”.

Overall, the report is likely to play into existing debates, mainly in France and Germany, on whether Trump’s “America first” policy is intended to wreck multilateral institutions including the EU on the basis that he treats them as a rival to US primacy.

The report says: “The US administration has taken a number of high-profile unilateral foreign policy decisions that are contrary to the interests of the United Kingdom. US withdrawal from the Paris agreement on climate change, the Iran nuclear deal and the UN human rights council, and the imposition of trade tariffs on its allies, undermine efforts to tackle pressing global challenges of critical importance to the UK.

“The UK has struggled to influence the administration, which is, in part, a reflection of a broader shift in the US towards a more inward-looking ‘America first’ stance, with less focus on the transatlantic alliance or multilateralism. In future, the government will need to place less reliance on reaching a common US-UK approach to the main issues of the day than has often been the case in the past”.

The report describes US foreign policy as deliberately chaotic. “The difficulty the UK and its allies have faced in trying to influence the US demonstrates the challenge of working with the administration,” it says.

It concludes: “How damaging this will be to what has hitherto been the UK’s most important international relationship will depend on whether the current approach is an enduring trend. Should President Trump win a second term or a similar administration succeed him, the damage to UK–US relations will be longer lasting”.

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