Cameron Seeks Obama’s Help in his Domestic Battle (Q&A)

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Answer to a Question

Cameron Seeks Obama’s Help in his Domestic Battle

The visit of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to the US on 13 May 2013 has proved once again that Britain is still a mere satellite state revolving in the US sphere. Not only did Cameron content himself during his visit with propagating the project of the “interim government” and the political solution in Syria as America wanted after she had reached an agreement with Russia, he also sought the help of the US president, Barack Obama, in solving his country’s domestic problems.

Cameron is facing huge pressures in parliament, especially from several MPs of his own party who want Britain to leave the European Union (EU) and return to the old “special relationship” with America. Cameron’s visit to Washington came one week ahead of the British parliament’s token vote on the EU. A third of the government’s MPs, about 100 Eurosceptics, are expected to defy him.

Cameron went to America to request her support against a number of MPs, including some from his own party, so that he may renegotiate Britain’s EU membership. Barack Obama obliged by saying,  “David's basic point, that you probably want to see if you can fix what's broken in a very important relationship before you break it off, makes some sense to me.”

Obama realises that the ongoing struggle at Westminster over the future of Britain’s EU membership is a British domestic issue; he expressed this stance by stating that he did not wish to meddle in Britain’s home affairs. He said, "The people of the U.K. have to make decisions for themselves." Notwithstanding this statement, Obama dared sending an explicit message about Britain and its role vis-à-vis the US policy by saying, “The U.K.'s participation in the EU is an expression of its influence and its role in the world, as well as obviously a very important economic partnership.” Obama also did not hesitate in sending a message to the Eurosceptics who, unlike America, want to see Britain quit the EU. He said, “And I know that David has been very active in seeking some reforms internal to the EU.  Those are tough negotiations.  You've got a lot of countries involved, I recognize that.  But so long as we haven't yet evaluated how successful those reforms will be, I at least would be interested in seeing whether or not those are successful before rendering a final judgment.” 

Cameron has pledged an in/out referendum on EU membership in 2017 if the Conservatives win the general elections. He is, however, seeking to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with Europe before the 2015 elections. He expressed his opinion explicitly on this issue during the joint press conference with Obama where he said, “I want to see the European Union change.  I want to see Britain’s relationship with the European [Union] change and improve.” Cameron asked “Is it in our interests to reform the European Union to make it more open, more competitive, more flexible, and to improve Britain’s place within the European Union?” and  concluded  by saying, “And then finally, is it in Britain’s national interest, once we have achieved those changes but before the end of 2017, to consult the British public in a proper, full-on, in/out referendum?  Yes, I believe it is.  So that’s the approach that we take -- everything driven by what is in the British national interest.”

David Cameron has been subjected to a scathing attack by America and the major EU member states since he raised the issue of the UK’s relationship with the EU in January 2013. His pledge to hold an in/out referendum between 2015 and 2017, should he win the election, was described as foolish; it was also claimed that it reflected Cameron’s ignorance of the decision-making style within the EU.

America was the first to have rejected Cameron’s call for a referendum. The Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Philip H Gordon, said that Britain risks damaging its relationship with America and being sidelined in the international community if it leaves the EU. Gordon added, “We value a strong UK voice in a strong European Union. 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.” In his reply to the Eurosceptics, especially the London mayor and Cameron’s leadership rival, Boris Johnson, who thinks that Britain’s fall into the EU trap has caused a host of political and diplomatic tensions with America and that leaving the EU would help redeem the historical ties between the two countries, Philip H Gordon said that any kind of a British exit from the EU would not enhance the “special relationship” in any way and that America would continue to forge stronger links with member countries of the EU which it sees as having “a growing voice in the world and a critical partner on global issues.” He went on to say that the UK voice within the EU was “essential and critical for the United States; so there are a lot of, inevitably, technical and detailed issues that have to be sorted out for every member of the European Union as it moves forward, but as a broad and general thing we value a strong UK voice in a strong European Union.”

As for France’s reaction, Francois Hollande confirmed that Britain could not pick and choose the rules she preferred from the list of the EU and that she should realise that membership is for life. If Francois Hollande was tactful in his criticism of Cameron’s proposal, his foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, however did not mince his words; he sarcastically said, “If Britain wants to leave Europe we will roll out the red carpet for you.” The remark echoed Cameron himself, who once used the same words to invite rich Frenchmen alienated by high taxes to move to Britain. Fabius added that demanding such changes to the laws of the EU was as if Britain had joined a football club and then suddenly said "let's play rugby".

The German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, also taunted Cameron by saying that Britain cannot expect just to pick and choose the aspects of membership that it likes. "Germany wants the United Kingdom to remain an active and constructive part of the European Union... but cherry picking is not an option.” The former Belgian prime minister and MEP, Guy Verhofstad, said, “David Cameron is playing with fire. He can control neither the timing nor the outcome of the negotiations.” He added, “His speech was full of inconsistencies, displaying a degree of ignorance about how the EU works.” As for the head of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, he was plain angry when he said that Cameron “just wants change in the single interest of Britain and that’s not fair.”

This is the state of affairs that the UK has reached in terms of weakness and powerlessness. She had become a satellite state revolving in the sphere of America after the Labour party had acceded to power in 1997. Britain’s rulers are no longer embarrassed to seek foreign protection and solicit America’s help in order to stay in power and run the affairs of their country. The party was right when it stated in the leaflet it published nearly 50 years ago, specifically on 4 April 1966, that “Britain owes her international political survival to America; in fact, she owes her existence as a major power to America. Had it not been for America, Britain would have collapsed a long time ago.”

12 Rajab 1434h

22 May 2013