Thursday, December 12, 2013

Another piece for the Huffington Post

Cool the Talk of TTIP as an 'Economic NATO'

Calling the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) an "economic NATO" seems logical enough, but the comparison should not be taken too far.
The build-up to and launch of TTIP negotiations between the United States and the European Union has led to a flurry of debate and speculation about what the world's largest trade and investment deal could herald. The deal could bring welcome opportunities for economic prosperity in the U.S. and Europe, and the chance to push wider global trade negotiations. It also offers the West a geopolitical tool, and it is this that has attracted deserved but sometimes excited comment.
By uniting the two core parts of the West, TTIP would allow them to engage emerging economic powers which are quickly shaping the global economy. By bringing together 40 percent of the world economy, rules agreed across the Atlantic could then form the core of global rules and norms, shaping the rise of new powers. Some commentators have gone so far as to declare that TTIP could be an 'economic NATO.'
The metaphor seems logical, and in part it is. For more than 50 years the two sides of the North Atlantic have pursued various policies to bind themselves together economically to complement NATO's military bonds. If the U.S. and the Europeans can combine their economic power then, like NATO, they would command the planet's most powerful and transformative economic relationship.
But it pays to be circumspect when making the comparison.

Piece for The National Interest.

A UK-EU Divorce: Bad News for America

The recent unveiling of a bust of Sir Winston Churchill in the Capitol Building offered a reminder of the long-standing special relationship between Great Britain and the United States. But there is something that keeps the relationship special today which the British shy away from: Britain’s membership in the European Union.
Since the 1960s, successive American administrations—Democratic and Republican—have supported the UK’s participation in European integration, a project the United States encouraged in order to help unite Western Europe after the Second World War.
Read the complete piece here

Britain outside Europe? The US View (DGAP's IP Journal)

UK withdrawal from the EU would be a double loss

Jeffrey LightfootTim Oliver

Britain is one of the United States' most important relationships, but Britain's position within the EU is central to its importance. A UK exit from Europe would weaken the geopolitical position of Britain and change the EU and Europe in ways which could be detrimental to US interests.

US support for a strong British role in Europe helped create fear that Britain was an "American Trojan horse" set to sabotage European unity on behalf of Washington. No one personified these fears more than French President Charles de Gaulle, who twice vetoed UK entry into the Common Market. Yet these fears overlooked the USA’s close relations with other major continental European powers, especially Germany. And they misunderstood the fundamental interest the United States had in European unity on economic and security grounds, concerns born from its involvement in two World Wars centered around Europe.The US has been a long-standing supporter of both European integration and a British role in the European project. The US-designed Marshall Plan for assisting the reconstruction of Europe required European unity and cooperation as a means of facilitating reconstruction and security. When in 1962 retired US Secretary of State Dean Acheson said, “Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role” he immediately followed it with another clear statement: “The attempt to play a separate power role apart from Europe, a role based on a ‘special relationship’ with the US and on being the head of a ‘commonwealth’ which has no political structure, unity, or strength – this role is about played out.” The part about playing “a separate power role apart from Europe” is often overlooked, not least by the British. Acheson’s speech reflected growing opinion in Washington DC that has led US administrations from Kennedy onward to push for UK participation in European integration.

Fears of the UK serving as a Trojan horse for America resurfaced during the bitter European disputes over the Iraq War. And indeed, throughout the 1990-2000s – and particularly under the Bush administration – Washington would on occasion cherry pick the diplomatic support of individual member states to advance broader diplomatic goals. Yet in backing the US over the 2003 Iraq War, the UK was not alone in the EU, with the then governments (if not necessarily the citizens) of sixteen of the current twenty-eight member states, supporting the war in some way. Moreover, just two years after the Iraq war, President Bush made very clear in his 2005 trip to Brussels that the United States had an enduring interest in a strong, successful European Union.
The American Interest
The Obama administration has continued the Bush administration’s support for a strong and united EU, with the UK as an engaged member. US policymakers increasingly appreciate that US power is reduced from just a decade ago, if only in relative terms. Unilateralist impulses have been replaced by a search for like-minded and reliable allies capable of helping to advance common Atlantic values. As President Obama made clear in his state visit to the UK in 2011, Europe remains the cornerstone for US global engagement and the greatest catalyst for global action in the world today.
From the perspective of Washington, the UK and EU are increasingly bound together, and must remain so if the transatlantic relationship is to remain healthy and relevant in a world marked by the profound shift of power and economic influence away toward the East and the South.
In the medium term, the US will seek to work through NATO or through coalitions of the willing on key issues. But in the longer-term, the US will likely need a strong and coherent EU to advance common interests and values in a globally competitive world. And as Obama’s then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Phil Gordon, declared in a visit to London in January 2013: "We welcome an outward-looking European Union with Britain in it. We benefit when the EU is unified, speaking with a single voice, and focused on our shared interests around the world and in Europe. … We want to see a strong British voice in that European Union. That is in the American interest."
The United States has expressed frustrations at Europe’s inability to act coherently in the world either through the EU or NATO. The EU’s own problems, especially those in the eurozone, leave the United States concerned about the damage a eurozone collapse could cause to both Europe and the United States. Though the US realizes a phase of naval-gazing is inevitable while the EU deals with its eurozone challenges, it nonetheless finds it frustrating. This adds to fears the EU is too inward-looking in general.
From Washington’s perspective, British membership the EU enhances the prospects for the EU and US cooperation. American and British alignment on a range of issues – such as economic liberalization, free trade, and security outlooks – makes UK membership in the EU in the direct interest of the United States. Efforts to reform the EU, to make it more responsive and dynamic, are therefore welcomed by Washington. However the United States is also alert to concerns from other member states that British efforts here are more about British domestic politics and national interest, and not those of either the EU or stable transatlantic relations.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has emerged as a crucial focus of US-EU relations. For the United States this deal is not simply about trade. If successfully negotiated, it could shift the center of gravity of transatlantic relations from NATO toward a US-EU relationship. Britain has been central to efforts to move this forward, thanks in no small part to its position as one of the United States' largest trading and investment partners. But Britain’s strained relations with the EU haunt negotiations.
While a TTIP without the UK (in the case of its secession from the EU) would not be impossible – indeed, the United States and other EU members have warned this could happen – it would be a more difficult deal to secure, especially in Washington, where it would be a more difficult sell to Congress. Talk of Britain joining NAFTA, or securing some other deal with the United States, overlooks how for Washington any such relationship would take place in the shadow of TTIP.
Despite talk of an Asian pivot, the Unites States remains committed to Europe. An improved geopolitical relationship is the prize the United States seeks through TTIP. For Washington, TTIP could be less effective if Britain were not playing a leading part in the EU side of the relationship.
NATO remains an important part of the USA’s relations with Europe, but in part thanks to failures in Europe to organize better on defense or act coherently on security matters, Washington is growing weary of the security alliance. Operations in Libya where the US role proved essential, along with the behavior of states such as Germany over Syria, and the UK after the House of Commons vote, have reinforced concerns. As a result, US concerns that EU defense cooperation could undermine NATO have given way to a desire to see any progress on defense, regardless of the facilitator. Washington see the lack of European capability – be it through NATO or the EU – as the primary risk to NATO and future of transatlantic security cooperation.
Beyond concerns about trade and security, the general political debate in the United States about the UK and the EU can seem lackluster. Relations with the UK are still seen very much through talk about Churchill or Thatcher. While some Republicans lament US relations with the EU, the potential for this to extend into executive policy should the Republicans win the White House is, at best, remote. Moreover, no one in the United States any longer sees the European Union – with its many crises – as a threat to American power, as some did in the late 1990s. Instead, a lazy but popular view of Europe, the UK included, (especially among conservatives) center on it as a place alien to US values and in decline, thanks to such things as socialized medicine and Islamization.
A Brexit: Implications for the United States
For Washingtong, the UK’s geopolitical relevance would be much reduced by withdrawal from the EU. Britain would remain an important ally, with strong economic, social and cultural links. The practical core of any “special relationship” would more than likely remain in nuclear weapons, intelligence sharing, and special forces. The UK’s involvement in US intelligence activities monitoring other EU member states points to how strong this link is. British prime ministers will likely continue the long-standing approach of offering British military contributions to US military operations as a way of securing influence in Washington, in turn securing a continued US defense commitment to the UK. But declining UK military capabilities mean this looks set to be increasingly difficult. Other options will need to be considered. The United States does not see EU membership as limiting the UK to only engaging in European matters. Washington welcomes London’s global engagement, but this is built in part on a foundation of European and transatlantic links. Any efforts by Britain from the outside to play a bridging role between the United States and the EU will not likely be welcome in either party. Britain therefore risks finding itself side-lined in US-EU relations.
Britain must avoid a situation in which a US administration is forced to choose between a deep and special bilateral relationship with the UK, and a more brittle, but much larger and important relationship with the rest of the EU. From the perspective of Washington the Britain and EU are increasingly bound together, and should remain so for the health and relevance of the transatlantic relationship. Nor will Washington appreciate – if anything it will deeply resent – being drawn in to play the part of a counselor to limit the damage, not least to its own relations with its European allies, from a UK-EU divorce.
The United States, like powers such as Russia or China, will not assess Britain’s withdrawal simply in terms of what it means for their relations with the UK; they will assess it in terms of what it means for their more important and larger relationship with the EU. The implications for the EU of a UK withdrawal are generally under researched, but it could make the EU more inward-looking, unwilling to enlarge further, less focused on the Atlantic, and even further from being able to martial the full potential for military and diplomatic power. It will remain dependent on a US security guarantee.
Alternatively, freed of an awkward member it could become a more coherent actor. Whichever way the EU moves, the UK should not expect Washington to disengage from the EU because Britain has withdrawn. If anything Britain’s absence will mean that Washington has to increase its relations with the remaining members of the EU, to the detriment of relations with the UK. There would be no shortage of applicants to fill the position of claiming to be Washington's closest ally within the EU, and the United States will be keen to build closer relations with them, for example with France, the Netherlands, or Poland. While such applicants might struggle to offer a relationship that could claim to be as ‘special’ as British-American ties, for Washington they will be of increased importance thanks to Europe, and the EU, being an area of the world in which Washington will retain considerable interests.

Britain outside Europe? Introduction (the DGAP's IP Journal)

Views on the future of the UK and EU, from Europe and beyond

Almut MöllerTim Oliver

We have debated what a withdrawal or renegotiated relationship with Europe would mean for Britain. But what would a Brexit or new relationship mean for the rest of the EU, other member states, allies, and the global standing of both Europe and the United Kingdom? Analysts from other EU member states and beyond give us their perspectives on the implications of a change in Britain's relationship with the Union.

Reaction to the speech in the UK was considerable. While it is not actually certain that a referendum will be held, it seems increasingly likely. And with opinion polls pointing strongly toward a Eurosceptic vote, the UK could be headed toward leaving the EU.Britain’s relationship with the EU has always attracted considerable comment, not least in the UK itself. This was certainly the case in early 2013 when Prime Minister David Cameron committed a future Conservative government to renegotiate the Britain’s relationship with the EU, which would then be put to the British people in an in-out referendum.

There has been a great deal of debate about what a withdrawal or renegotiated relationship would mean for Britain. Yet by focusing on the UK we overlook the equally important discussion of what such a move could mean for the rest of the EU, other member states, Europe's allies, and the global standing of both Europe and the UK. If Britain exits the Union, this would change the EU, transform the UK’s relations with the EU and its members, and have implications for the UK and the European Union’s position in the world, as well as for relations between member states left in a union without the United Kingdom.
The UK would need the other 27 EU member states to agree to a renegotiated relationship, so it is crucial to understand other countries’ debates on Britain’s plans in order to assess the likelihood that David Cameron can secure his goal. To date there has been little to no attempt to bring together discussion or analysis of what a UK withdrawal or renegotiated relationship would mean for other countries in and beyond the European Union.
This project therefore shifts the perspective of the debate by asking colleagues from think tanks, research institutions, and universities across Europe and beyond how the UK’s current policies toward the EU are being discussed in their country. Over the next half a year we will be publishing several overviews each month on IP Journal.
Contributors have been asked to provide a short overview of the discussions and opinions in their country. For those states within the EU, suggested questions to guide their work include:
1. What debate has there been about the UK’s relations with the EU? What role is Britain seen as having played in the EU?
2. What official government statements and other political opinions have been voiced about the possibility of the UK seeking a renegotiated relationship with the EU?
3. What is the attitude of the general public toward the UK and its relations with the EU? Are there any opinion polls or other measures of public opinion that provide data on this?
4. What are the views of British aims to reform the EU and how to manage relations between the eurozone and the rest of the EU?
5. What impact would a UK withdrawal from the EU have on your state and its relations with the UK?
6. What approach would your state like to see the UK take toward the EU?
For states outside the EU such as the United States and China the questions were slightly adapted:
1. What debate has there been in your country about the UK’s relations with the EU? What role is Britain seen as having played in the EU?
2. What views are their of British aims to reform the EU and how relations between the eurozone and the rest of the EU be managed?
3. What impact would a UK withdrawal from the EU have on your state’s relations with the UK?
4. What impact would Britain's withdrawal have on your state’s relations with the rest of the EU?
5. What approach would your state like to see the UK take toward the EU?
We hope this project will shed light on the so far largely overlooked angles of Britain’s future relationship with the EU, and inspire some new thoughts in London and other capitals on the implications of a British withdrawal from the European Union. With this we also aim to contribute to the wider reform debate about the European Union, including the question of differentiated integration between the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the eurozone.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Piece for LSE EUROPP blog

London and Berlin are not speaking the same language when it comes to EU reform.

The UK and Germany have both expressed a desire to reform the way the EU functions. Almut Möller and Tim Oliver argue that due to their contrasting constitutional traditions and outlooks, the two countries risk misunderstanding or antagonising one another. They point out that the German discussion around EU competences is part of a country-wide debate on federalism, while the UK’s proposition of a competences review is informed by the ideas of Parliamentary sovereignty and the repatriation of power.

In his January speech on Europe, David Cameron committed a future Conservative government to renegotiating the relationship between Britain and the EU. This new relationship would then be put to the British people in an ‘in-out’ referendum. Seeking allies in their efforts to change the EU, and thus keep Britain in, Cameron along with many others in the UK have set their sights on Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel. 
They hope that the need for reform in the Eurozone will open the way for a review of EU competences and repatriation of powers. These hopes have been heightened by occasional comments about the need for reforms in the EU from German politicians. However, Britain risks missing the point that German debates about EU competences are shaped by a political and constitutional outlook that is in sharp contrast to that of the UK.
First, German debates about Europe have always been framed in a way that reflects what Germany feels is good for Europe, not just Germany. Although the country is becoming more at ease with the notion of self-interest, British unilateralism and national self-interest sit uneasily with this approach. Second, the UK should not think it can use German debates on EU reforms for domestic purposes. Tactically speaking, it might be useful to point out to the UK public that London is not alone in its reform agenda. However, if taken too far this might be seen as London trying to manipulate Berlin, and could potentially annoy Germany. Finally, Britain’s efforts could tempt Germany to stress that the UK alone cannot lead this debate. The UK must connect its agenda to wider European and national debates about competences and needs to regain credibility from a continental perspective.
To understand this situation better, Britain and Germany should remind themselves of their contrasting constitutional histories and cultures. Germany’s thinking on EU competences is part of a domestic debate about federalism. The patchwork of kingdoms, dukedoms and principalities that made up Germany until 1871, still exist today in the form of sixteen Bundesländer (federal states). While the constitution might be clear about the distribution of power between the central government and the federal states, in reality, the demarcation of competences is not so clear-cut. Over the past ten years two major commissions have been convened on the reform of the German federal system, and it looks like a third one is on the way.
This debate extends to the EU. The commitment of successive federal governments to hand over powers to the EU led the Bundesländer to push for constitutional rights in the early 1990s. Germany’s powerful constitutional court has regularly chastised the federal government for going beyond its powers in these matters.
To this we must add memories of 1933-45 and the Western Allies’ subsequent insistence on strong regional government to constrain central government, as well as Germany’s later determination to see itself integrated into the EU. Germany’s views on what the EU should and should not do emerge from this historical background. The Bundesländer has been at the forefront of debates about competences in the EU and have managed to incorporate exclusive, shared, supporting, supplementing and coordinating competences into the EU’s legal order categories in the Lisbon Treaty, similar to those found in the German constitution.
In contrast, the UK’s debates about federalism and EU competences are not well-developed; they are often muddled, and almost entirely focused on the UK. British politics remains dominated by the idea of Parliamentary Sovereignty, with all power retained by Westminster. Devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, along with the recreation of a Greater London Assembly, might have started a process of turning the UK into a federal system. Yet, devolution implies powers can also be taken back or suspended, as they have been on occasion in Northern Ireland, when the peace process has faltered. The majority of the UK continues to be governed by one of the most centralised systems in Europe. For Westminster, powers and competences are not shared, they are either centralised or devolved. For Westminster, competences held by the EU are seen in a similar way as powers in devolved government: they are given, not shared, and can be taken back by Westminster.
So, it was no surprise that when the UK government announced it would conduct a ‘Balance of Competences Review’ to examine the role of the EU in British life and whether that balance needs to be redressed, Germany declined to participate. Berlin sensed the review was driven more by Westminster’s self-interest, than a desire to reform for the good of Europe. Cameron has since changed his approach and now talks of EU-wide subsidiarity and democracy, rather than unilateral repatriation. This moves some way towards ‘talking the talk’ of the Germans on the balance of competences, but Germany remains wary. After the difficult ratification of the last round of the Lisbon Treaty, there is little appetite for far-reaching reforms. Ironically, Germany has become more pragmatic with regard to treaty reform, while the British agenda is becoming more ambitious, and even ideological.
British misunderstanding of Germany’s approach surfaced again during the recent German federal elections. Angela Merkel mentioned the possibility that reforms to the Eurozone might lead to a review of the balance of EU competences and did not rule out the transfer of competences back to member states. However, Merkel was speaking in a federal election campaign and in a parallel election campaign in Bavaria, a region crucial for her party. Bavaria is noted for guarding against Berlin handing powers to Brussels. To German ears, Merkel’s comment was yet another contribution to the federalism debate. For British commentators, it was misinterpreted as a major concession to Cameron.
Finally, from Germany’s perspective, Westminster’s obsession with the EU might seem strange when the possibility of a UK break-up has become more real now than ever before. Instead of obsessing about EU competences, Westminster might like to pay more attention to rebalancing the competences within the UK and moving towards a more federal system. A federal United Kingdom and a federal Germany might then be able to better understand each other’s views on reform of the European Union.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Piece for E!Sharp on a Brexit

Is the EU asleep as Britain sleepwalks out of the EU?

There is no shortage of analysis into what it would mean for Britain to quit the EU. But what it would mean for the EU is less than clear, something I discovered while researching the potential impact of a UK exit on the EU. The UK might be characterised as an awkward or unwilling partner, one that has delayed European integration, but it has also brought much to the EU, something largely unbeknown to its own people let alone to the rest of the EU. Whether for better or worse, losing Britain would hardly be an insignificant moment for the EU’s development. Ed Miliband, leader of the UK’s Labour Party, warned that despite the British debate, Britain risks ‘sleepwalking out of the EU’. But with debate elsewhere in the EU so limited, is the EU also asleep?
To some in the EU discussing the idea of a member state leaving is a taboo. The inclusion in the EU’s treaties of a withdrawal clause setting out how a member state might withdraw was itself resisted by some who saw it as a challenge to the founding aim of the EU creating ‘an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.’ The idea Britain might break with this, or as Prime Minister David Cameron suggested, stay in the EU but drop the commitment to ‘ever closer union,’ is a direct challenge to that aim.
Losing a member state opens a Pandora’s Box of potential problems. Nobody is too sure how the withdrawal clause would work. The EU would have to draw up negotiating red-lines and in facing the UK hold its nerve in negotiating with a state with which it has mutually deep economic and political relations it would not want to endanger, but one it would not want to be held to ransom over either.
The remaining EU would also have to change. Institutions, budgets and policies would be open to reform. Smaller states may gain over larger states. North and West could lose out to South and East. Instead of facing the Atlantic the EU would face more towards the Mediterranean. Germany’s central position could be further enhanced. Europe could succumb to more protectionist thinking. The position of Ireland would need to be thought about. A withdrawal might connect with growing Euroscepticism elsewhere unleashing centrifugal forces unravelling the EU, especially if the Euro faced another period of crisis. It would change relations with the rest of non-EU Europe such as Norway or Turkey. Relations with the U.S. could change, as might NATO. Or perhaps a UK withdrawal will have only a limited impact on the EU’s internal dynamics, if anything freeing it of an awkward partner, making it easier to move towards ‘ever closer union’.
The rest of the EU might be forgiven for thinking this is a recurring bad dream from which it regularly awakes to find all is well. Britain has long bemoaned its EU membership. Cameron’s commitment to a referendum echoes the successful, if ultimately insignificant, renegotiation followed by an in-out referendum in 1975. It remains open to speculation whether another referendum will even happen. Instead it might appear better for the EU to wait it out and call Britain’s bluff by remaining silent.
Ignoring British demands certainly appeals to those who see Cameron’s approach as nothing short of trying to blackmail the rest of the EU. Cameron’s demand for a renegotiated relationship or Britain will likely vote to leave, rests on the idea the EU cannot say no because letting Britain go would hurt the EU. The potential disruption and damage to the EU is not something to be overlooked. But from the perspective of the rest of the EU the loss of the UK would probably not be lethal to European integration. Instead it is the UK who would suffer more. It’s as if Britain is threatening to shoot the EU in the foot while aiming the gun at its own head. Refusing to discuss a Brexit therefore stems in part from a view of Cameron’s strategy as self-defeating, illogical and just plain bonkers.
More than anything the eurozone crisis poses a far greater threat. This is especially so for Germany, the country that more than any other will make the final call on relations with the UK. If anything, Britain’s attempts to try and separate itself from the eurozone crisis has provoked feelings of anger at Britain’s latest show of non-solidarity, with some feeling the loss of the UK might be necessary collateral damage for saving the euro. What this collateral damage would be, however, remains unclear.
It may be that privately parts of the EU have concluded that any renegotiation is doomed because what the EU can offer and what Britain will demand are destined to be too far apart, making a withdrawal inevitable. If so then the only strategy seems to be to remain silent and hope for the best. But this still begs the question of what the EU will look like if the UK does leave.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book review of Zhiqun Zhu's 'New Dynamics in East Asian Politics: Security, Political Economy and Society'

Will appear in Political Studies Review, Volume 13 of the Journal, Issue 1, January 2015, available via Wiley Online Library

Zhiqun Zhu (2012) New Dynamics in East Asian Politics: Security, Political Economy and Society. London: Continuum. 337pp, £19.99 (p/b), ISBN 978 1 4411 6621 0

This wide ranging book works well as an introduction to studying the contemporary politics of East Asia. Focused on China, Japan, Taiwan and the two Koreas, the book’s interdisciplinary approach leads it to being neatly divided into three sections covering security and foreign policy, new political economy, and changing societies. As Zhu explains in the introduction, the aim of the book is to avoid a traditional approach of writing about government, institutions and processes. This is born out in the largely well-written and researched chapters which cover a wealth of topics including the media, gender, national identity and nationalism, student politics, the film industry, local politics, the changing nature of anti-Americanism, environmental issues, security and foreign policy, welfare, and political economy. Throughout the book the coverage ranges from the international and wider-regional perspective through to the national and local. The chapters use a range of theoretical approaches and research models. Each chapter draws on a good selection of sources, with the end of each chapter including further readings and useful questions for on-going discussion.

The book faces four problems, all of which it largely overcomes. First, tying together such a wide range of topics was never going to be easy. But the book manages this by allowing the reader an insight into how this area of the world is coping with globalisation, changes in technology, shifts in power, and the political expectations and outlooks of the peoples of the region. Second, it provides a balanced approach in its coverage of the five states, although clearly due to its size China receives the most attention. The USA is ever-present, understandable given its role as a major East Asian power. However, its use as the main point of reference when making comparisons meant other areas of the world such as South East Asia, Europe or the Middle East received few mentions. Third, the book successfully resists the temptation to focus solely on international relations and security, instead drawing out the incredible economic and social transformations. But it provides a good analysis of the military and political tensions that could undermine these transformations, but which are also being driven by them in part. Finally, the book’s aim to discuss contemporary developments means some chapters will date very quickly, although the overall analysis of the book will remain of interest for many years. 

Piece for the Huffington Post about the UK and TTIP

The British Problem Facing a Transatlantic Trade Deal

Posted: 10/25/2013 6:16 pm

The British Government needs a transatlantic trade deal to show the European Union works for Britain, but not only could British threats to leave the E.U. scupper the deal, a successful transatlantic deal could also weaken Britain's commitment to the EU. Britain's dilemma could weaken transatlantic relations.
For successive British governments a deal opening up further the transatlantic marketplace has proved an elusive one. With the U.S.A. and Europe as Britain's main economic partners, even a small deal could produce significant gains for Britain's economy.
Today the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T.T.I.P.) offers hopes for the U.K. For both sides of the Atlantic it promises desperately needed economic growth and a much sought after geopolitical means for the West to face the rise of new powers. Despite T.T.I.P. being the largest bilateral trade deal ever attempted, negotiations aim to conclude by the end of 2014.
But progress has already run into problems. While delays from the U.S. government shut down can be made up, other obstacles are emerging from concerns pushed by agricultural, cultural and social interest groups. The 2014 European Parliament elections look set to produce a Parliament less sympathetic to either the E.U. or a transatlantic deal. And it remains to be seen whether the U.S. Congress can sustain bipartisan support.
British Problems for T.T.I.P.
For Britain's current coalition government T.T.I.P. offers the chance to show how Britain's membership of the E.U. works for the country. For Britain the E.U. has always been more of a means to an end of trade and security, and much less so the E.U.'s founding political ideal of 'ever closer union'. By joining with the rest of the E.U. the U.K. faces the U.S.A. as an economic equal, not the junior partner in a deep and important but inherently imbalanced 'special relationship'. A trade deal also plays well with the current government's aim for export led growth.
Britain is also central to T.T.I.P., thanks not only to its large trade and investment links with both sides, but also because of its central place in transatlantic geopolitical thinking. As a country that puts great effort into maintaining close relations between the two sides of the Atlantic, T.T.I.P. would aid Britain's long-standing aim of closer relations between the two.
Despite this, T.T.I.P. negotiations are haunted by the possibility the U.K. could quit the E.U. The possibility of this happening has increased in part thanks to Prime Minister David Cameron's commitment that should his Conservative Party win the next general election it will seek a renegotiated UK membership followed by an in-out referendum.
Doubts remain as to whether the U.K. will ever face such a referendum, and even Cameron's plans would not unfold until 2015-2017. With T.T.I.P. negotiations scheduled to be wrapped up by the end of 2014 some may wonder what the problem is.
The possibility of an earlier referendum (to say nothing of implications from the September 2014 Scottish independence referendum) cannot be ruled out, especially if the 2014 European Parliament elections produce a landslide result for the deeply-Eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party. If T.T.I.P. negotiations are delayed into 2015 then they could become caught up by a British general election, also occasionally suggested as an earlier date for a referendum.
While T.T.I.P. without the U.K. would not be impossible, it would be more difficult and a lesser deal if secured. The survival of T.T.I.P. could become a bargaining chip in the U.K.'s negotiations with the E.U.
T.T.I.P. Problems for Britain
At the same time, a collapse or significant delay of T.T.I.P. negotiations caused by one or more of Britain's E.U. partners, would fuel British Eurosceptic calls for the U.K. to quit the E.U.. Eurosceptics have long argued the E.U. holds Britain back from negotiating its own trade deal with the U.S.A. and other allies.
But there's a twist. T.T.I.P. is likely to weaken Britain's economic relationship with Europe in favor of its already strong transatlantic relations. While other E.U. states would also experience this, their political commitment to European unity is not reflected in the U.K. where, at least in public debate, the economic dimension has always come first. For British Eurosceptics a weakened U.K.-E.U. economic relationship helps ease the way for a U.K. exit.
Shared Problems for the U.S.A., Europe and Britain
For the EU, T.T.I.P. could be become a bargaining chip used by the U.K. to leverage a renegotiated U.K.-E.U. relationship. At the same time, it could push further towards the exit one of its largest member states and one central to transatlantic relations.
For the U.S.A., it would be difficult to imagine a T.T.I.P. without the U.K. It would certainly make T.T.I.P. a more difficult sell to Congress. A U.K. exit from the E.U. would also leave the U.S.A. facing an E.U. changed by the disappearance of one of its most liberal, free trade members.
More damaging for all involved, especially the UK, would be the weakening - or dashing - of hopes T.T.I.P. could provide a stronger geopolitical relationship between the two core parts of the West. Weakening the two relationships it has relied so heavily upon would be a spectacular home-goal for the U.K. But can the rest of the E.U. and the U.S.A. bank on the U.K. not doing so?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Piece for the Huffington Post on US views of a Brexit

My first outing for the Huffington Post. More such pieces to follow.

A European Union Without Britain Is the Last Thing America Needs

Compared to the House of Commons vote on Syria, a British referendum vote to quit the European Union would have far more significant implications for the future of transatlantic relations.
The House of Commons decision not to support U.S. military action against Syria, along with opinion polls pointing towards growing public support to quit the E.U., has prompted warnings the U.K. risks isolating itself from both the U.S.A. and the E.U. But focusing on the implications for U.K.-U.S. and U.K.-E.U. relations distracts from the larger relationship Britain's isolationism would affect: the U.S.-European relationship.
The U.S.A. would be left facing an E.U. changed by the disappearance of one of its largest, economically liberal and outward-looking members. Europe's divisions could be deepened, the E.U. and N.A.T.O. weakened and wider transatlantic relations complicated. Alternatively, the U.S.A. could find itself facing a more united E.U., with the U.K. adrift between the two.
An EU in Flux
A British exit could plunge the E.U. into more navel gazing as it negotiates a U.K. exit, and changes its institutions, budgets and policies to reflect the U.K.'s disappearance.
Combined with changes to the Eurozone, the E.U.'s balance of power could shift. The E.U. could become more inward-looking, tending more toward protectionism. Instead of looking out to the Atlantic the union could look more towards the Mediterranean. Smaller states could gain over large states. The Franco-German axis could be unsettled, leaving a more dominant Germany. E.U. enlargement could stall in the face of unease amongst western states at Europe's center shifting further south or eastwards.
On the other hand, rid of a notoriously awkward and non-Euro member, the Eurozone could become the undisputed core of the E.U., pushing the E.U. further towards "ever closer union." Europe's social model could be freed of British attempts to weaken it. Of course, the extent to which Britain's awkwardness can slow the E.U. has been put into perspective by the Eurozone's own struggles to find solidarity and leadership.
Washington would also face a wider Europe changed by the U.K.'s post-withdrawal relationship with the E.U. If the U.K. and other non-E.U. members thrived and the Eurozone continued to struggle, then Britain's withdrawal could trigger centrifugal forces leading other member states to question their membership, in turn unravelling the E.U. But should the U.K. suffer and the Eurozone stabilise, then the U.K. could be further isolated.
Europe Further Divided
For the U.S.A. or Asia, a British withdrawal may reinforce views of Europe as riven by division and decline. There will still be no answer to "who speaks for Europe?" if the U.K. and other non-E.U. European states disagree with the E.U. Europe could become more vulnerable to divide and rule by external powers.
The disappearance from the E.U. of one of its major military powers could further strain efforts at Europe-wide defense cooperation, whether through the E.U. or N.A.T.O. Alternatively, freed of British hesitancy, E.U. defense efforts could be reinvigorated, albeit never destined to reach their full potential without the U.K.
There will be no shortage of applicants to fill London's place of claiming to be America's closest ally in the E.U. While such applicants might not offer a relationship that can claim to be as "special" as that with the U.K., for the U.S.A. they will be of increased importance thanks to Europe remaining an area of the world in which it retains considerable interests.
However, should a British exit further destabilize the E.U., complicate transatlantic relations and threaten the prospects of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to enhance transatlantic cooperation in the face of rising powers, then it would only further dampen what hopes Washington still has for Europe to act as an effective partner.
Britain Adrift in Transatlantic Relations
The vote on Syria raised once again the debate about Britain's place in the world, but this is a debate shaped more than anything else by discussion about Britain's place in Europe. This is a debate so persistent and divisive because it goes to the heart of British identity, security and political economy. It is on the issue of Europe that rests so much of the question of what country the UK wants to be.
A decision by the British to answer this question by quitting the E.U. will still leave the U.S.A. facing a Britain struggling to come to terms with its place in the world. Some talk of a vote to quit the E.U. as the means to reclaim Britain's sovereignty, asserting Britain's independence as a "Switzerland with nukes." That those nukes would have to be carried on U.S. built and serviced missiles shows the limits of that independence.
More importantly, Britain would still struggle to assert its sovereignty in the face of a Europe where the E.U. is likely to remain the predominant political actor, and a more important actor in the daily lives of the British than any other state or international organisation, including the U.S.A.
For the U.S.A., a British exit would change both the U.K. and the E.U., forcing it to reassess the relative merits to be given to its bilateral relationship with the U.K. compared to its much larger multilateral relationship with the E.U. Navigating a course between the two is not something any U.S. Administration should relish

Comment on the UK Government's review into the balance of competences between the UK and the EU

I've been taking more and more interest in the UK Government's review into the balance of competences between the UK and the EU. It's a great case study for examining the coalition, the operation of Whitehall, UK-EU relations and how we understand the EU today. The following piece appeared on the LSE's British Politics and Policy Blog:

The government’s review of EU competences offers valuable academic insights into both Britain and the EU

Tim L OliverThe British government’s ‘Review of the Balance of Competences’ into the EU’s role in British life might be surrounded by political tensions, but as Tim Oliver argues, it offers a unique insight into the operation of British government, the politics of the UK’s coalition government, UK-EU relations, the evolution of the EU, and how today we assess what the EU is and approach arguments about what it should be.
The Coalition government’s announcement in July 2012 that, as agreed at the insistence of the Conservative Party as part of the 2010 Coalition Agreement, it was to conduct a full review of the EU’s involvement in British life, has now reached its half way stage. In July 2013 the government published six reviewshealthtaxation, the single marketanimal health and welfare and food safetydevelopment cooperation and humanitarian aid, and foreign policy. A total of 32 reviews will be published by the autumn of 2014.
Each review follows a similar format: first explaining the historical development of the area reviewed; second, assessing the current situation; third, asking what the UK’s national interest is in the area; finally exploring what options there are for going forward, such as repatriation of powers. The reviews avoid making recommendations, their intention being to inform the political decision that will follow the review. Each draws on evidence submitted in writing or taken in person at a range of meetings.
While 26 reports are still to be published, it is already clear that for academics the review can open up to analysis a variety of issues in current British and international politics.
Coalition Politics
For students of how the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition is operating, the political management of the review, its origins and eventual use offer a way of examining how the three groups that shape the government on this issue – Liberal Democrats, the strongly Eurosceptic parts of the Conservative Party, and the less Eurosceptic parts of the Conservative party – approach an issue that deeply divides them. Accusations by John Redwood, a strongly Eurosceptic Conservative MP, that the review is turning into a whitewash shows how it may be seen by some Eurosceptics. Given the depth of such tensions it remains to be seen whether the review will last the course. Nevertheless, both its political outcomes and its use as an instrument for managing such a deep political tension will be a focus for studying the operation of Britain’s first post-1945 coalition government.
Operation of Whitehall
It is, of course, nothing new for a government to use a technical, in-depth inquiry to neutralise a sensitive issue. This review, however, will have presented unique challenges for Whitehall, thanks to its implications for coalition relations, cross-governmental scope, international implications and wider domestic sensitivity. The review then offers a unique example of officialdom walking the fine line between the political and technical, with the language used in the review, indeed the very bureaucratic sounding name, intended to ensure it runs as a technical and inherently dull activity. So far the reviews published provide a wealth of technical detail. Nevertheless, despite the 390 public submissions I count so far, questions will inevitably be asked about how open, selective and thorough the process has been. If the review is to serve as a central plank to any British renegotiation then the method of the review, and thus the reliability of the approach, will come under significant political, media and academic scrutiny.
UK-EU Relations
The sheer breadth of the 32 reviews in themselves tell us something about the nature of the UK-EU relationship, something Eurosceptics will point to as what they feel is wrong. At the same time, the detail of the review, and to a lesser extent exercises such as the Conservative group ‘Fresh Start’, have provided a welcome injection of detailed evidence based analysis to the debate. This in itself is a radical change given how, as the Leveson Report on Press Regulation made clear, Britain’s media has often resorted to simply making up stories about the EU. For academic analysis, particular interest will be into how – or if – a technical review shapes final public opinion. Will politicians, the media and voters be swayed by an approach based on the opinions of experts and evidence, or will emotion, gut instinct and made-up stories prevail? And how will the narrow reviews connect to the wider cross-cutting debates about Britain’s political economy, identity, constitution, security and place in the world?
For those interested in how a state identifies its national – or European – interests, the review process opens up the British system, although much remains behind closed doors. The evidence submitted to each review lays bare the competition between private, civil society, international, political and governmental interests that so often shape a state’s views. It shows an EU member state coming to terms with how to balance sovereignty, competing national and sectoral interests, international obligations and membership of the EU.
The reviews specific purpose of informing a possible renegotiated relationship between the UK and EU, one that is to reflect the UK’s national interest, should make it a central point of reference for studying any such attempt. When the history of the 2010-2020 period of UK-EU relations is written it could well be about a renegotiation, an in-out referendum and potentially a withdrawal; events that will have defined so much of UK politics, Britain’s place in the world and an EU changed by a change in relations with one of its largest members. The review will underpin much of this, and be referred back to for guidance should the UK opt to withdraw.
Comparisons have already been made with other reviews intended to propose reforms to the EU, such as the Dutch review. The British review will take its place amongst the many studies and academic reviews of an EU in a state of flux. Academics are in a position to put aside the politics that led other member states to decline involvement in what some see as a unilateral British review. Instead we can examine and assess a review that is amongst the most extensive, well-resourced and organised of any review of EU activity since the 2001-2003 European Convention.
The Evolution of the EU
For students of international relations and European integration the review does something we rarely see: a state comprehensively cataloguing the impact on it of the international. Any reading of the reviews also shows how Europeanisation often reflects globalised pressures or wider Western multilateral efforts.
With the EU remaining an organisation of member states, the UK’s experiences can to some extent be extrapolated to other member states. Here the scale of EU involvement in British life might seem to point to some form of downloading or spill-over theory of integration, but the reviews also point to examples where Britain has successfully uploaded or cross-loaded its policy agenda. As Simon Usherwood has noted of the published reviews, that they point to a broadly appropriate balance of competences reflects the complex negotiating system of the EU.
Theoretical debates aside, with the EU in a state of flux the review serves as an exercise of taking-stock of the EU’s development, an entity which remains sui generis in international relations. That today many in the EU struggle to think of it as an international organisation, which it technically remains, is demonstrated in page after page of the published reviews.
How will academics analyse the review in several years’ time? Will we see it as a futile, politically motivated activity, subsumed into the larger political tensions of the coalition government at a time of heightened tensions between the UK and the EU? Or will we look at both the politics and beyond it to see a review, which while it has its problems, stands as a unique experience for both Britain and the EU, and a unique opportunity for the study of both?
Note:  This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the British Politics and Policy blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please read our comments policy before posting. 
About the Author
Tim Oliver is a Fritz Thyssen Transatlantic Post-Doctoral Fellow for International Relations and Security (TAPIR) at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Washington D.C. Educated at the University of Liverpool and the London School of Economics, he has worked in the European Parliament, the House of Lords, and taught at UCL, LSE and as a senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.