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 830.

    UK is valuable to USA b/c you are who you are,
    which is a very intelligent, bright+independent country that thinks for itself, who is one of our best allies

    Business leaders see this as a chance for UK to dominate Europe
    whilst USA dominates North America

    But in order for UK to have the chance to dominate Europe
    they would have to allow themselves to be dominated by Europe
    in return

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.


    This argument comes up time and time again and has been answered many times. Yes they are our biggest trading partner but they sell to us FAR more than we too them, so in essence, they need us more than we need them. When trying to strike a deal, being in the position that the UK are in is the better position. They sell us more, so if they have more to lose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    @814. John from Poole

    No, you don't see it much in the US... only in every single state, plus the Cascadia movement. Are you willfully ignorant?

  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    Just been out to the newsagents, cancelled the Daily Mail and ordered the Guardian. It damn well worked, I know everything about everything now, and I'm allowed to vote. Phew.

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    I don't care how valuable the UK is to the US. What matters is, how valuable are we to big banks?

    Hmm. I can't think where such an odd idea came from.

    Some say value is only realised when you sell something. So, are we for sale?

    Or should the people of the UK decide what to do and how we should value our country? Roll on, independence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    @802. Tony Gorman
    "I also think we should be part of the EU and not bow down to the views held by the right wing members of the Tory Party!"

    How about we hold a referendum to find out what the majority of the electorate thinks or will you call democracy nothing but a right wing conspiracy regarding the EU?

  • Comment number 824.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.

    It is high time the UK became fully committed to the EU, rather than tailing behind but still enjoying the financial and political advantages. The UK desperately needs a 'special relationship' with the rest of Europe (we ARE part of it!) more than it does with big buddy USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    I wonder how the US would react if No10 were to say that they thought the US gun laws are not to their liking. I suspect they would react rather angrily and tell No 10 to mind its own business! As for the UK needing to be in Europe, why is that Norway and Switzerland are not on their knees financially?

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    The UK is valuable to the US because it's always nice to have a Security Council member who will blindly follow your lead regardless of the legality of it when you want a profiteering illegal war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    UK will take notice of US advice re Europe, to the same degree,
    as UK advice was be taken re gun control in the US.

    What is the ****ing matter,with every one squawking & running around like head less chickens.If any one in Europe wants to buy from us we`ll sell.
    We will not leave the EU we will trade with the EU we will be in the EU
    Just don`t want to be governed by a remote Federal entity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    Britain's largest trading partner is the EU. Being outside the EU would mean the imposition of tariffs on our goods, loss of competitiveness and ultimately job losses.

    What I loathe with a passion is the EU wasting taxpayers' money on ridiculous directives. A recent example was about what clothes etc hairdressers can wear. How many nice lunches in Strasbourg did they have dreaming that up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    It's only the South East of England that's anti-EU, it's because the EU doesn't approve of the organised crime being committed in the City of London. Why doesn't South East England leave the UK and the EU, we don't want you or need you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.


    I think you will find, maybe to your horror, that a lot of Labour voters are in favour of a referendum and out of Europe. Probably why UKIP is so high in the polls, Blaming just the right of the Tory Party is missing the point I`m afraid

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    785.Trout Mask Replica

    The IMF bailout to the UK in '76 was different because whilst there were strings attached to the loan they did not fly in every few mnts & tell us how to run our entire Country - that is what is happening in Greece. To try and compare the democratic positions of the UK and that of the EU is like comparing apples with pears. The lack of EU democracy will be its downfall

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    In reality the EU is more important to the US than the UK, so much for the "special relationship".

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    Yet another timely warning to the UK right wingers. First Norway, now the US telling us we're better in than out.
    Especially pertinent as the USA, darling of the right, is of course a group of states, with some autonomy but part of a Union...don't see too many Americans advocating splitting away from theirs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    Everyone is entitled to voice their concerns, that's freedom of speech. Whether or not you want to give up that freedom is another question - a question of sovereignty - the EU is not the single market, it is an institution controlled by a few individuals who are not directly accountable democratically. How often does the west moan about undemocratic processes in China, the Middle East etc? D'uh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.

    We need a good trading relationship with Europe - what we don't need is the waste and beaurocracy involved in the EU parliamaent.
    We don't need America to tell us what to do - butt out Obama

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    from a country where the national debt is equivalent to 55k per person. I dont think the US has any value just debt!


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