Nick Clegg: UK 'valuable' to US partly because of EU


Nick Clegg: US opinion is "entirely unsurprising"

The UK is "valuable" to the US partly because it is a member of the EU, the deputy prime minister has said.

It comes after the Obama administration expressed concern about the impact of a UK referendum on its future in the EU.

Mr Clegg said if the UK wanted to lead in the world you had to be "strong in your neck of the woods".

No 10 said David Cameron wanted changes to EU relations, adding it was "hardly news" the two men took a different approach to the future of Europe.

Mr Clegg, who was speaking on the first of his weekly radio phone-ins on LBC, said it was up to the UK to decide how it handles its relationship with Europe, but the Americans were entitled to express their views.

He said: "Americans have been saying since the 1950s that Britain and the special relationship between Britain and America is one that is partly based on the fact that we're valuable to our American friends, and important to people in Beijing and Tokyo, because we stand tall in our own neighbourhood.

"If you want to lead around the world - and this a globalised environment we're working in - the first thing you've got to do is be strong in your neck of the woods and I think that's the point they're making."

The EU and the single market were crucial for British jobs and helped the UK tackle cross border crime, he added.

'Strong British voice'

David Cameron is facing pressure to hold a referendum on Europe at some stage during the next Parliament and has been criticised by some in his own party for not doing more to distance the UK from the EU.

Mr Cameron wants the UK to remain within the EU but believes there is a need to redefine the relationship in light of moves towards further integration by countries using the single currency.

He has suggested that "fresh consent" from the UK people could be sought for any new deal that emerges as a result of negotiations with other EU countries.

However, many Conservative MPs want him to go further and to commit to a referendum on the question of whether the UK remains in the EU or not - a so-called "in-out vote".

Philip Gordon, the US assistant secretary for European affairs in the US State Department, told journalists on Wednesday that the UK would always be a key ally of the US and that "what is in the UK's interests is up to the UK".

But he added: "We have a growing relationship with the EU as an institution, which has an increasing voice in the world, and we want to see a strong British voice in that EU. That is in America's interests. We welcome an outward-looking EU with Britain in it."

Discussing the often "inward-looking" history of EU negotiations, Mr Gordon said that "referendums have often turned countries inward".

"The more the EU reflects on its internal debate, the less it is able to be unified," he said.

'Divisive rows'

In response to Mr Gordon's comments, No 10 said: "The US wants an outward-looking EU with Britain in it, and so do we."

Conservative MP Dominic Raab, a Eurosceptic, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that a more unified Europe would actually "decouple" the UK and the US and lead to "divisive rows".

He said Britain needed to do what was in its interests and "not what is convenient for the Americans" and argued that the US had misunderstood the consequences of a more unified EU.

Start Quote

"It gives us influence over the world's largest single market, but it also strengthens out relationship the United states”

End Quote Douglas Alexander Shadow foreign secretary

He said: "Historically the US wanted two contradictory things out of Europe and out of Britain in Europe. Since Kissinger's day we've heard that plea - when I deal with Europe who do I call? The Americans want the united Europe because, as a matter of convenience, they've got one port of call, one telephone that they need to ring up.

"But that inevitably means more integration and more federalism. The irony is that the more the EU unifies, the more federalist it becomes, the more decoupled Britain would become from America and the less anglo saxon its outlook would be.

"The more the EU stands up on its own two feet the more we're going to see very divisive rows with the US. We had it over Iraq, Kyoto, the ICC, the war on terror. If the UK was part of that federalising approach... we would inevitably become more decoupled from the US."

Labour's shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said the US had recognised that Britain's influence in the world and its relationship with the US was strengthened by its membership of the EU.

"It gives us influence over the world's largest single market, but it also strengthens out relationship the United states and critically it amplifies the United Kingdom's influence in a world where both economic and political power is shifting to the east," he said.

"David Cameron is marooned between a party that wants a referendum as a proxy for exit and public who I think understand that the overriding challenge for Britain is to deliver investment, jobs and prosperity."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    Lots of countries trade & have position relations with the EU without being members. We are over a barrel because we joined in the first place and to leave now would be seen as a snub/political gesture. If we have never agreed to join we would not be pressured to join now. The only exit route we will get away with is a very gradual edging away... stealthily does it, we don't want them to notice!

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    The best outcome for the whole of Europe would be for the EU to be reformed
    so that it focuses on free trade and genuine joinjt projects that are better done together than apart. The EU should never be allowed to become a super state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    Is Nick Clegg secretly anti-EU? and perhaps anti-american?

    I can think of no other reason for using the word 'valuable'

    It was never going to go down well was it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    America FIRST policies again.
    The only special relationship is in the minds of the deluded politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    Clegg is correct, the US and all countries investing in the UK do so at least in part because we are in the EU single market. To leave this market would not make sense for the UK, however we should get rid of EU directives that make us less competitive. Calls for an in or out referendum should be ignored.

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    The idea that UK would fall flat on its face were it not for the support of Uncle Sam is a fallacy. Despite what some would have us believe, the USA has NOT always been an unerring ally of the UK. Only need to look at Falklands war to see just how reticent US is to offer support of anything not seen to be in immediate national interest. US cannot be counted for support, regardless of EU status.

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    If empires like the EU are so beneficial why hasn't Asia, North America, Africa or South America become equally united without the consent of the public? The only time it has been tried in Northern Asia (USSR) it failed abysmally as the EU is also doing. Ask Greece, Portugal, Spain,etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    Don't worry, Clegg will only go back on what he says then issue another "I'm Sorry" Video.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    If the UK would leave the EU, this would strengthen the axis France - Germany.

    The UK can be a corrective to what goes wrong in the EU - overregulation and an expensive administration.

    Don´t change the system of "Balance of powers"!

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    I dont think we need to pay lip service to the US or Europe. We dont NEED to be a part of any family that is using us, or coercing us into being what THEY want, which right now is not in OUR best interests. Not everyone is stupid or brain dead for wanting out of the EU,if the EU had stayed about trade and the common good, there wouldnt be a problem, but the EU are using us as the big dumb bouncer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    A stronger and more federalist EU would only benefit two groups of people - the politicians on this side of the pond and the politicians on that side of the pond. I'm only interested in what is best for Britain - not Brussels or Washington.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    America cant sort itself out, why is it giving advice out to the oldest democracy in the world? . Thats a bit like a tramp telling a business suite how to run his company.

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    The USA would do well to keep its nose out of our affairs, almost every foreign political move they have made in recent years has gone pear shaped. If they want to be in Europe let them join, not hinder us by their unwanted advice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    It is surprising that it is taking a comment from the US to let people know that leaving the EU would have repercussions for the UK.
    Every country belongs to one or the other trade group. For years, GB has isolated itself from the EU by standing just around the cliff. You either belong or you don't. Global leadership is enhanced by your ability to get major groups together not self-isolation!

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    423. Letthemeatcake - agreed, be careful what you wish for. I have no opinion on being in or out because frankly I don't have enough info to make a judgement. Same with Scottish Independence. There is far too little trustworthy info out there to make an informed decision. If we have a vote on Europe lets hope we start hearing the real pros and cons of it. I seriously doubt we will though

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    Europhiles...a very revealing comment about their faith in their arguments, or rather the lack of it.

    Not at all. Logic has been taken out of the debate and anti-EU have been whipped up into a nationalistic frenzy. Look at comment 424 - a completely logical point, yet voted down. Because we want to be ruled by us. Like a UK politician cares more about you than an EU one

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    " chiptheduck
    Fact - that sure builds a lot of hospitals!"

    Not as much as the £25B in tax that business leaders yesterday wrote to the FT to say was directly due to businesses HQ'd in Britain because of its EU membership.

    Still, you need to explain how you'd get by having to spend most of the year in the UK if you lost your right to spend half the year in sunny Portugal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    Not too sure I like being told what to do by someone 3000 miles away who's population still see us as the evil empire.

    However, what it does show, whether I like it or not, is who's really in charge. And it's not the people we voted for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    To be fair to the Americans we stick our noses in their business too, we constantly berate them about their gun crime, bad medical system and our (now old history) worry over Romney being president etc. Its a bit hypocritical for us to tell them to keep their noses out. They'll have an opinion on these matters and voice them whether we want them to or not. Freedom of speech and all that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    Butt out Obama/USA!

    This is democracy we are trying to achieve - stop stymying our efforts with your capitalist claptrap.


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