British Foreign Policy: Broken Bridges

British foreign policy has tried to punch above its weight for the past half-century, while balancing between different sets of international allegiances. This long-term high wire act has required prime ministers and foreign secretaries to be highly acrobatic: dashing from capital to capital, promoting summits, United Nations resolutions and multilateral compromises. It’s been very difficult for successive prime ministers to maintain the balance which they claimed was essential to the country’s influence and prestige. In different ways at different times, Harold Macmillan, Jim Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher and John Major fell away from the European side.

The World Today Published 1 December 2004 Updated 19 October 2020 7 minute READ

William Wallace

On winning the 1997 election, new Labour reasserted the ‘guiding light’ principles of transatlantic balance. British foreign policy, Prime Minister Tony Blair declared to the Lord Mayor’s banquet that November, should aim to be ‘strong in Europe and strong with the US. There is no choice between the two. Stronger with one means stronger with the other. Our aim should be to deepen our relationship with the US at all levels. We are the bridge between the US and Europe. Let us use it.’ Seven years later the bridge has collapsed; both ends have given way.

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