1. The Foreign Affairs Committee last inquired specifically
into the topic of relations between the United Kingdom and the
United States in 2001. Our predecessor Committee at that time
decided that it would be appropriate to begin its work following
the 2001 General Election by looking at the UK's most important
bilateral relationship. The inquiry was rapidly overtaken by events.
As the Committee stated in its subsequent Report, published in
December 2001, "we could not have predicted in July [when
we launched our inquiry] just how relevant to the UK's immediate
foreign policy priorities our inquiry would become".
Al-Qaeda's 11 September attacks on the US were to have a profound
effect on international relations and an equally significant impact
on the UK's own foreign policy priorities.
2. Since 2001 the Committee has devoted much time
and resources to scrutinising the many foreign policy facets of
the so-called 'War against Terror' and a wide spectrum of issues
relating to global security. In total, since 2001, the Committee
has published thirteen reports on these themes, each of which
has involved, to a greater or lesser degree, an examination of
UK-US co-operation in specific areas and of the implications of
US actions for UK foreign policy.
3. Given the extent to which the UK's relationship
with the US has influenced British foreign policy since 2001,
we thought it fitting that our final major policy inquiry of the
2005-10 Parliament should be a re-assessment of the state of the
UK's relationship with what the Government describes as its "most
important bilateral ally",
not least because since January 2009 the US Administration has
been headed by a President with a very different global outlook
to his predecessor.
Our inquiry: scope and focus
4. In July 2009 we announced the terms of reference
for our inquiry. We stated that we would inquire into "the
relationship between the UK and the US, and the implications this
has on foreign policy". We said that we would welcome views
on the following issues:
- the basis of the bilateral
relationship between the UK and US;
- UK and US views on the nature and value of the
bilateral relationship and the contribution of the UK-US foreign
policy relationship to global security;
- the extent to which UK and US interests align
in key foreign policy related areas including security, defence
and intelligence co-operation;
- the extent to which the UK is able to influence
US foreign policy and UK policy is influenced by the US under
the Obama Administration;
- the extent to which 'the special relationship'
still exists and the factors which determine this; and
- the implications of any changes in the nature
of the bilateral relationship for British foreign policy.
5. Our inquiry coincided in its timing with the
opening of the Iraq Inquiry chaired by Sir John Chilcot. This
was officially launched on 30 July 2009, with the aim of identifying
lessons that can be learned from the Iraq conflict.
By its nature, the Iraq Inquiry inevitably touches on many aspects
of the transatlantic relationship. Although our report makes reference
to some of the evidence presented to that inquiry, and overlaps
with it in some specific areas, it does not in any way seek to
replicate the work that is being done by Sir John and his panel.
We await the findings of the Iraq Inquiry with interest.
6. Given the extent of our previous scrutiny of individual
policy areas and regions where the UK and US have co-operated
in the field of global security, we have not inquired into each
and every aspect of this co-operation. Nor is our Report intended
to provide a comprehensive appraisal of US foreign policy priorities.
That task has already been discharged by a range of experts and
commentators on both sides of the Atlantic, and our focus must
necessarily be upon US policy only insofar as it has implications
for the work of the UK Government in general and the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office (FCO) in particular. We have therefore chosen
to concentrate in this Report on a number of key political and
security-related aspects of UK-US co-operation, as a guide to
how the transatlantic relationship is currently working.
Conduct of the inquiry
7. We held several oral evidence sessions during
the inquiry. On 11 November 2009, we heard from Dr Robin Niblett,
Chatham House, Dr Dana Allin, Institute of International Strategic
Studies, Dr David Dunn, University of Birmingham, Lord William
Wallace, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the
London School of Economics and Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Royal
United Services Institute. Our questions focused on the political
dimensions of the UK-US relationship as well as the extent of
co-operation on military and intelligence matters. In our second
evidence session, held on 2 December, we heard from three panels
of witnesses: Nick Witney, European Council on Foreign Relations,
provided evidence on the European aspects of transatlantic relations,
while Stryker McGuire, Newsweek, and Justin Webb, BBC,
offered testimony on the wide-ranging political and popular links
between the UK and US. We gained insights into the UK's diplomatic
effort in the US from Sir Jeremy Greenstock GCMG, the former British
Ambassador to the UN from 1998 to 2003, and Sir David Manning
GCMG, CVO, who was British Ambassador to the US from 2003 to 2007.
Our final evidence session, with Ivan Lewis MP, Minister of State
at the FCO, was held on 16 December. We are grateful to all our
witnesses, as well as to those who submitted written evidence
during the inquiry. A full list of written evidence is appended
to this Report.
8. Also, in October 2009 we visited New York and
Washington DC in connection with our inquiry. The visit gave us
insight into how the Obama Administration was settling in, and
a clearer understanding of its foreign policy priorities and perspectives.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our interlocutors
for their time, and to thank the staff in the FCO's Posts who
facilitated our visit. A full list of the meetings we conducted
during the visit can be found in the Annex. The work of the Posts
is discussed in Chapter 4.
9. Our Report starts by examining the extent of the
links between the UK and US and the much-debated question of the
'special relationship', before considering the extent of specific
co-operation in a number of key areas. We then consider the role
and activities of the FCO in the US. Further sections of the Report
discuss the political approach that successive British Governments
have adopted in their dealings with the US and what form the relationship
may take in the future.
1 Foreign Affairs Committee, British-US Relations,
Second Report, Session 2001-02, HC 327, 11 December 2001, para
Seventh Report of Session 2001-02, Foreign Policy Aspects of the
War against Terrorism, HC 384; Second Report of Session 2003-03,
Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism, HC 196; Tenth
Report of Session 2002-03, Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against
Terrorism, HC 405; Second Report of Session 2003-04, Foreign Policy
Aspects of the War Against Terrorism, HC 81, Seventh Report of
Session 2003-04, Foreign Policy Aspects of the War Against Terrorism,
HC 441; Fourth Report of Session 2005-06, Foreign Policy Aspects
of the War against Terrorism, HC 573; Eighth Report of Session
2006-07,Global Security: The Middle East, HC 363; Second Report
of Session 2007-08, Global Security: Russia, HC 51; Fifth Report
of Session 2007-08, Global Security: Iran, HC 142; Tenth Report
of Session 2007-08, Global Security: Japan and Korea, HC 449;
Fourth Report of Session 2008-09, Global Security: Non-Proliferation,
HC 222; Fifth Report of Session 2008-09, Global Security: Israel
and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, HC 261, Eighth Report
of Session 2008-09, Global Security: Afghanistan and Pakistan,
HC 302 Back
Ev 56 Back
The Prime Minister announced on 15 July 2009 that an inquiry by
a committee of Privy Counsellors would take place. More information
on the Iraq Inquiry can be found at www.iraqinquiry.org.uk