The ‘special relationship’ between the US and the UK is under increasing strain and could be reassessed, a secret briefing document has revealed.
The memo, seen by the Mail on Sunday, is addressed to members of Congress ahead of next month’s British parliamentary elections. It says that “the UK may not be viewed as centrally relevant to the United States in all of the issues and relations considered a priority on the US agenda,” amid defence cuts and the changing balance of global power.
It adds that although Britain and the US are likely to remain “key economic partners”, a “reassessment of the special relationship may be in order.”
The growth of transnational organisations such as the G20 has caused a decline in the “influence and centrality” and the relationship between the two countries, the Congressional Research Service memo says.
The continuance of the relationship, it states, will hinge on the success of the British economy and the continued implementation of spending cuts: “Many observers assert that a significant degree of the UK’s international influence flows from the success and dynamism of the British economy, further raising the stakes on whether the UK can sustain stronger economic growth while continuing to pursue ambitious fiscal consolidation.”
The term ‘special relationship’ was first coined by Winston Churchill in a 1944 speech, when he warned that unless Britain and the US worked together on the world stage “another destructive war will come to pass”.
However, it has been repeatedly put to the test as many in Britain see it as increasingly one-sided, with Britain as the weaker partner.
When Prime Minister David Cameron visited the White House in January, he insisted that President Obama had said the relationship was “stronger than ever” but it later emerged Obama had begged him not to cut Britain’s defence spending any further, something he failed to commit to do.
Sir Peter Westmacott, British ambassador to the US, told the Times that the interpretation of the memo was wrong. “We see nothing in the CRS briefing paper to suggest that the special relationship is over. On the contrary, it is clear from recent statements of President Obama and other senior US officials that the opposite is the case.”