Will Britain be caught in the middle once again?

Share
Related Topics

Strange, is it not, how sweetness and light are bursting out all over - even before spring is here? Iraqis go to vote. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are photographed side by side hosting Nelson Mandela. And the US and Europe suddenly cannot get enough of each other's company.

Strange, is it not, how sweetness and light are bursting out all over - even before spring is here? Iraqis go to vote. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are photographed side by side hosting Nelson Mandela. And the US and Europe suddenly cannot get enough of each other's company.

The latest token of the new transatlantic mood was the stop-over in London yesterday by the new US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. She was starting a nine-country tour designed to mend the many diplomatic fences President Bush managed to smash during his first term. For the British, Dr Rice's message was that the US has no "better friend and ally" than Britain and that no one, including the US, is about to invade Iran.

Dr Rice went on to Germany, and the big set-piece speech of her tour will be in Paris - home, as though we had forgotten already, of those "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" blamed for thwarting Mr Bush's efforts to obtain UN cover for his invasion of Iraq. Rumour has it that she may deliver it in French. How times change.

Or do they? Unless the security situation deteriorates further, the elections in Iraq seem already to have tempered the fury of the anti-war countries of "old" Europe towards Washington. The war has cost the US and Britain dear in lives and money - evidence on the side of those who opposed it. At the same time, the prospect of dealing with an Iraqi government indirectly elected by Iraqis encourages European participation in training and reconstruction. While rapprochement is possible, however - and is already being loudly hailed as reality by both sides - the warmer climate largely reflects a policy that sweeps differences under a thick carpet labelled "Don't mention Iraq".

It is instructive that Mr Blair continues to lie low where transatlantic relations are concerned. He had breakfast with Dr Rice yesterday, but the far more public event was her press conference with Jack Straw. When Mr Bush comes to Europe next month, he will pass London by. While friendlier US-EU relations should ease Mr Blair's sensitivities over his joint Iraq adventure with Mr Bush, this is still clearly perceived to be an electoral liability - as it surely is. After the last Britons were repatriated from Guantanamo, Mr Blair was said finally to have agreed to collect his Congressional medal. We doubt, though, that he will find time to receive it much before mid-May.

True, the language in which Washington is currently addressing Europe is more accommodating, more diplomatic and more nuanced than it was before Mr Bush's re-election. The visits of Dr Rice and Mr Bush so early in his new term also send a conciliatory signal. Looming on the horizon, however, are differences that could prove no less divisive than Iraq. Iran's nuclear ambition is one; another is the EU's determination to lift its arms embargo on China.

So far, on both these issues, Mr Blair has lined up with Europe. But it is hard not to see that here are two blocs, powerful in their own way, pursuing their own interests as they understand them. The danger is that, once again, it will be Britain's fate to be caught in the middle.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own