Aug 04, 2021
4 mins read
In this article I review the special relationship between the US and UK and argue that it has proved to be a one-sided pact which has degraded the UK’s national security and destabilised the economy.
It has been an article of faith of successive UK governments that it is in the national interest to closely align with US economic and foreign policy. In 1946 Winston Churchill described the UK and US as having a “special relationship” and the term has been used by Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and most recently by Keir Starmer.
Like all orthodoxies and claims, it is a good to test them from time to time as more evidence and data become available. It is possible the process could reveal that the orthodoxy or claim was not true in the first place, or used to be true but at some point became untrue.
The UK has closely followed US foreign and economic policy for the last 40 years. There is now ample evidence to form an accurate assessment of whether the UK has benefited from that policy alignment. While the alignment confirms the existence of a close relationship between the two countries, it is not special in the sense that most reasonable people would understand the word to mean.
In the post war period the US and UK found common cause in fighting the cold war. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union a new common cause was needed. The right-wing in the US and UK found that new common cause in neoliberalism, an economic model designed by think tanks that the right-wing had funded. It could be argued that as neoliberalism was designed by right wing people it contains an inherent right-wing bias, so is a political ideology as well as an economic model.
In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan introduced the three key neoliberal policies of privatisation, deregulation and austerity. Those policies have now been tested to destruction in both the US and UK. They have caused the highest levels of inequality the UK has experienced in a century and created record levels of child poverty, debt and homelessness. Both the Tories and New Labour applied neoliberal economic policy, which has caused anaemic economic growth, wage stagnation and increased living costs. Having weakened the economy the Tories then formed an austerity coalition government with the Liberal Democrats in 2010. Between 2010-2020 Tory austerity directly caused 200,000 avoidable deaths.
As well as the human cost, Tory austerity has also taken a high economic toll. The Tories had already doubled the national debt to over £2 trillion and economic growth was stagnant before the pandemic hit. The Tories frequently boast about high employment, yet growth and productivity were both falling before Covid, making boasts about employment levels rather hollow. Private debt was also rising before the pandemic and is continuing to rapidly increase. These are all indicators that something is seriously wrong with our economy.
On top of all that there is also the huge cost of Brexit to consider. Another economic concern is the Bank of England’s addiction to quantitative easing and issuing QE funds to unproductive areas of the economy, causing inflation.
After the 2008 economic crisis the Queen asked why nobody saw it coming. That same question is equally relevant today and this time must be asked before, not after, another crisis strikes.
The UK’s lockstep alignment with US foreign policy has proved disastrous for the UK’s national security. Tony Blair tricked the country into a war of aggression against Iraq. British troops have been drawn into blunder after blunder because successive British prime ministers have effectively outsourced them to the US to help fight its wars of aggression. Following US foreign policy has come at a great cost to our country in life, treasure and reputation. The US wars of aggression the UK has been dragged in to have destabilised global security and acted as a recruiting sergeant for terrorism at home and abroad.
Our close alignment with America has also caused us to be drawn into alliances with countries that the UK should not be allied with. It is not in the national interest to ally with a Saudi dictatorship which murders journalists and commits war crimes on an industrial scale against innocent civilians in Yemen. It is also not in the national interest for the UK to ally with Israel while it is imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinians.
In light of the evidence that has become available over the last forty years, it is clear that the special relationship between the US and UK may well be special for the US but is detrimental to the UK's interests. The UK’s close alignment with American economic and foreign policy has damaged our economy and degraded our national security.
The orthodoxy shared by successive UK governments in the post war period has ultimately proved to be false.