A Not-So-Special Relationship: Why Britain is Becoming Divided Over the Atlantic Alliance

Peter Harris
Reuters

Peter Harris

Politics, Europe

Britain’s relationship with the United States is at risk of becoming a divisive partisan issue in domestic politics—something that will only worsen with Britain’s impending exit from the European Union.

A Not-So-Special Relationship: Why Britain is Becoming Divided Over the Atlantic Alliance

Is the Trump administration inept, clumsy, dysfunctional, unpredictable, and beset by internal divisions? According to confidential cables sent by Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s former ambassador to the United States, the answer is yes. That assessment—a diplomat’s frank appraisal of his host government, never meant for public consumption—have now cost Darroch his job and plunged the Anglo-American relationship into one of its worst crises in recent memory.

Had Sir Kim’s memos been kept under wraps as intended, they would have been regarded as entirely unremarkable and appropriate by those privy to the contents. The leaked documents revealed nothing about the chaotic inner workings of the White House that isn’t already common knowledge. If anything, it would have been more surprising if Darroch had confided to his bosses back in London that the U.S. administration was humming along like a well-oiled machine.

What makes the Darroch affair so important is not the content of the leaked documents but rather the context of their release and the political reaction in London. Viewing the drama through this broader frame, it becomes clear that Anglo-American relations won’t be easily improved even with a new ambassador in place. On the contrary, Britain’s relationship with the United States is at risk of becoming a divisive partisan issue in domestic politics—something that will only worsen with Britain’s impending exit from the European Union.

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