Sorting by


Rishi Sunak’s Washington trip is chance to make US ‘special relationship’ mean something once again | US News

Here’s a provocative question. Has the much-vaunted phrase ‘the special relationship’ worn out? 

As Prime Minister Rishi Sunak traverses a busy few days in Washington DC, expect to hear it repeated lots and with photo opportunities to match.

The Anglo-American phrase is deeply protected, especially by the British side.

Only former prime minister Liz Truss is said to have found it to have a somewhat desperate tone to it.

But that view lasted only as long as her premiership.

Rishi Sunak talks with Joe Biden before a session on the first day of the G7 Leaders Summit in Hiroshima Japan 
Pic:No 10 Downing Street
Rishi Sunak with Joe Biden at G7 Leaders Summit in Japan. Pic: No 10 Downing Street

All other British prime ministers value it deeply – the phrase as well as the actual relationship.

Roots of the ‘special relationship’

It is a relationship which has its roots in the genuinely special rapport between the late Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight D Eisenhower.

She and Mr Eisenhower fostered a relationship in the run-up to D-Day 79 years ago this week.

Mr Eisenhower was the wartime general. Queen Elizabeth was the wartime princess. D-Day was an acute early example of the special relationship in action.

President Dwight Eisenhower with Queen Elizabeth in Washington in 1957
President Dwight Eisenhower with Queen Elizabeth in Washington in 1957

The Queen would go on to anchor the relationship through numerous political leaders on both sides.

The status now of the special relationship is less clear.

There is no question that the US values the UK leadership on Ukraine (Britain is second only to America on finance and weapons and has arguably led the way in terms of rallying others), but beyond that, UK relevance just isn’t what it was.

This is not just a vibe you feel among Americans in Washington, but a sentiment you feel talking to diplomats of other countries here too.

People in this town point to Brexit and the subsequent political turmoil as the cause.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak arrived in the US on 6 June. Pic: AP

Where once, the UK was America’s bridge to Brussels and the EU, now a new bridge has been built straight to Europe.

President Joe Biden counts EU Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen among his closest allies.

Yes – Mr Sunak and President Biden have established a smooth and warm relationship but America now has other obvious special relationships too.

The numerous different British PMs of late certainly hasn’t helped to maintain the relationship.

British officials are making much of the fact that this Sunak visit has been designated by the president as an ‘Official Working Visit’ rather than just a ‘Working Visit’.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Why is the PM going to Washington?

There is a distinction and in Downing Street it matters and it’s appreciated.

David Cameron was the last prime minister to bag ‘official’ in the trip’s title.

The zeitgeist issue – AI

Expect Mr Sunak to focus heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) – the zeitgeist issue.

He wants Britain, with its innovation and tech credentials, to lead the way in terms of navigating the challenges of AI. But is the UK sidelined by the US-EU machines?

Absolutely not, Mr Sunak’s officials insist.

Read more:
Rishi Sunak to head to Washington for talks with Joe Biden
‘New low’ if Russia behind dam attack – Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak is failing at his five priorities, public poll

Expect emphasis on a new level of partnership on economic security and on competition (not conflict) with China.

On China, maybe Britain could have an edge on the EU in terms of healing and fostering relations?

Expect Mr Sunak to trumpet Britain’s relevance.

Ukraine will be Mr Sunak’s example of how UK leadership is making a difference.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak attends a laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington. Pic: AP

He is expected to lobby President Biden to back the UK’s desire to push Defence Secretary Ben Wallace as the next secretary-general of NATO.

The prime minister’s time on Capitol Hill is also critical. Meeting lawmakers on ‘the Hill’ is vital for continuity in the topsy-turvy world of American politics.

Connections with politicians on the right (including the Trumpian cohort) must be fostered because who knows what will happen in November next year.

This visit is a chance to make the special relationship mean something again.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button