Nick Clegg: Our real loss of sovereignty is not to Europe but to the US

Thursday 18 March 2010 01:00

Let me be clear. I'm an Atlanticist much like everyone else. I spent a happy time working in the United States. I think it is vital to our interests that we maintain a positive, strong and even uniquely warm relationship with the United States. But it is not our only relationship and it mustn't become a relationship that at every junction, every time a decision is made we have no choice but to follow the decisions made in the White House. And yet that seems to have been happening with greater velocity and frequency in recent years rather than less.

Look at the headlines. The former head of MI5 saying "startlingly" that she now feels that the American Secret Services were conducting interrogations of terror suspects in ways which are wholly unacceptable, contradictory to our principles and legal values – but weren't telling people here! What does that say about the British relationship? What a lopsided asymmetrical relationship.

What does it say that we seem to be apologising for far too long? Why is it that I find myself as the only leader of a political party asking the obvious question of whether we, as a country, should be spending £120bn over the next 20 years on the like-for-like replacement of the Cold War Trident Missile System?

I certainly think there is no case for the like-for-like replacement for that system. I believe one of the reasons there is a deafening silence on that issue is because that missile system is cemented by a sense of indebtedness to our American friends.

I don't think that's right. I'd like to see us repatriate our foreign policy interests so that we conduct a foreign policy which doesn't just conclude that we have no choice in vital matters such as whether you go to war or not just because a vital strategic partner tells us we must. That is a loss of real sovereignty about which I never hear the swivel-eyed Eurosceptics worry about at all! But surely any foreign policy must be conducted in line with your values, principles and strategic interests. Our strategic interests will not be served unless we release ourselves from that spell of default Atlanticism which has prevailed so strongly since Suez.

From a speech by the leader of the Liberal Democrats at Chatham House

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