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UK Politics

Labour tells David Cameron: leave the EU and US link will be damaged

Opposition’s strongest attack yet on Cameron's promise of an in/out referendum on Europe by 2017

David Cameron’s strategy on Europe is putting Britain’s special relationship with the United States at risk, Labour will claim today.

Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary, will dismiss as “a Eurosceptic fantasy and post-Imperial delusion” the idea promoted by some Conservatives that looser UK ties with the European Union would allow Britain to strengthen its links with the US. “A British exit from the EU would fundamentally damage our partnership with America, just as it would isolate us in Europe,” he will warn in a lecture at Harvard University.

In the Opposition’s strongest attack on Mr Cameron’s promise of an in/out referendum on Europe by 2017, Mr Alexander will say: “Our relationship with the United States has been described as a partnership of the heart, special, unique, and exceptional. But one thing is certain, the UK's relationship with the US would be a lot less special if we were outside the EU.  In a 21st century defined by interdependence, isolation in the Atlantic would be anything but splendid for Britain.”

The Labour leadership is resisting pressure from some Labour MPs to match Mr Cameron’s referendum pledge in its 2015 election manifesto and is now stepping up its attack on the Prime Minister. The Obama administration has already expressed concern about the prospect of the UK turning its back on the EU.

Mr Alexander will reject what he will call “a UKIP-style view of foreign policy, with Britain relegated to an economic and diplomatic island – isolated from Europe and irrelevant to America.”

He will add:“Pushing Britain towards the margins of Europe or out the exit door would risk permanently downgrading our influence and relevance in Washington.  At a time when the game changing trade deal between America and Europe is within reach - Britain should be focussed on securing those jobs and investment rather than putting stability and investment at risk.”

Mr Alexander will suggest that Britain’s “top table seats” at the EU, United Nations Security Council, Nato, the Commonwealth, the G8, G20 and World Bank are “overlapping and interdependent spheres of influence, not mutually exclusive power bases that we have to choose between.” 

The shadow Foreign Secretary will warn that the twin pillars of UK foreign policy – EU  membership and close relations with Washington—are both at risk as Mr Cameron flirts with EU withdrawal and President Barack Obama “leads a country pivoting its focus and resources towards the Pacific.”

He will say: “Europe is already America’s largest trade and investment partner, and the potentially game changing trade deal between America and Europe is also now within reach. Despite these ties, this relationship may still be under strain because of the course that the Prime Minister has set Britain on.  The UK stands taller not just in Washington – but also in Beijing, Moscow and Delhi - when we stand firmly at the heart of the EU.”