Britain and the US have appeared to have a very cosy relationship during the last century and so far in this one. We have fought World War I and II together, defeated Hitler and then, eventually, the USSR. We have fought together throughout the Middle East, destroying nations. You could liken it to a wrestling tag team, taking on the rest of the world together in order to be the supreme champions, but then again has it really been so rosy? Has Britain not dragged the USA into wars it didn’t want and vice versa? Maybe. If you actually analyse the relationship between the two states, we might be able to glean what could happen both post-Brexit and post-Presidential election.
During the First World War, America tried to side-line itself for as much of the war as was possible but was clearly a supporter of Great Britain. It supplied the UK with various things such as planes, munitions and, most importantly, men. But one must not overestimate the scale of the American involvement pre-1917 (when they officially entered the war). The American president of the day, Woodrow Wilson, was calling for further isolationism and would rather not get involved in a European war, even after the loss of 128 American lives once the Lusitania was sunk in May of 1915. The Americans only supplied 800 airplanes before 1917. When it was involved it sent 1.2 million men of which 117,000 died, which was nothing compared to the 420,000 lost British soldiers in the 5 months of horrendous bloodshed known as the Somme.
Again, people think that the Americans were our best friends in the Second World War. But time and again they screwed us over with the variety of lend-lease schemes which were set up between the allies and the US. One of the major of these acts was the Destroyers for Bases Agreement of 1940 in which Churchill gave the Americans naval bases in the Caribbean and North America in return for 50 of the US’ Destroyer class ships. These were outdated and were built for the First World War and highly obsolete come 1940 when they were deployed by the Royal Navy. The most interesting part of Lend-Lease was in fact the way it tied to the Allied nations to the US as their debtor. Now, they were economically in the control of the West which would allow the USA to control them in a way that the allies couldn’t control the US. The UK was specifically harmed by this, as the US seemed to have control of the UK for a long, long time after and both became “friends” as opposed to mere allies.
As America rose to be dominant throughout the Twentieth Century, Britain continually tried to align itself with the interests of the US. The Suez Crisis of 1956 epitomises the control that the UK had given to the US because it was evident that the UK couldn’t act as an independent player on the world stage. The foreign wars under the Bush administration, into which the UK was dragged, are again evident of this dependency, and a will to appease the new big player on the world stage- the US. The UK blindly followed where the USA would lead.
Now, how does Brexit fit into this picture of the Anglo-American relationship? Obama was against the UK’s withdrawal from Europe. Trump has championed it as a victory for the people of Britain against the globalist elites of the EU. The threats of Britain being at the back of the queue seem to be in vain. Britain is a major trading partner with the US and should Hillary Clinton get into power on November 8th, the US would be loath to not try and get some form of trade deal sorted because so far in 2016, the US has had a trade surplus of nearly $1.5bn with the UK- why would she want to give that up? Also, if Trump gets into power, he too will want a strong relationship with the UK. Having already had Nigel Farage speak at his rallies, he is clearly trying to make overtures to a post-Brexit Britain. But, we should analyse the effect of Brexit and the effect that it will have on the balance of power in the West. Brexit was a rejection of the EU, but was it a thrust towards the US, or the Commonwealth? In all honesty, it’ll probably be a mix of both as we still have some nostalgia over our long lost Empire and still consider ourselves to have “special relationship” with the US, as Mrs Thatcher would always be saying.
But history has clearly shown, the US has not been our most favourable of allies, often being very selfish in its approach to world politics. Britain has been seemingly oblivious or powerless to stop this and as we go forward we must protect our own interests. We must take the incentive from Brexit in order to get a new neo-liberal relationship based on a mutual trade agreement, not one which is one-sided. We have economic muscle and now we are freed from the EU, we need to flex it and make sure we are partners and equals with the US and not a subordinate or puppet.