UK & US transatlantic partnership: A reality check

By Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan | Gwadar Pro Jun 12, 2023

Editor's Note: The author is Executive Director of the Center for South Asia & International Studies (CSAIS) Islamabad and Regional Expert on China, BRI & CPEC. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.

The recently announced transatlantic partnership between the UK and the US aims to establish new economic security mechanisms and counter perceived threats from China and Russia. However, it appears to be a flawed attempt to build a trans-regional alliance against China, the world's second-largest economy, and Russia, a prominent geopolitical actor. To be blunt, this partnership appears to be a diplomatic veneer and political symbolism rather than a solid strategic move from the UK and US heads of government.

Western media portrays this as a strengthening alliance, but a closer analysis suggests it's more of a misguided maneuver by the UK and US. There's concern that this new partnership will draw Britain further into the US sphere of influence.

Additionally, the announcement of the "Atlantic Declaration" by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden at a joint press conference seems more like a diversion from Sunak's failure to secure a free trade deal with the US, a promise made in 2019.

During the press conference, Sunak reaffirmed Britain's special relationship with the US and criticized China and Russia, accusing them of exploiting openness, stealing intellectual property, and misusing technology for authoritarian ends. 

The agreement, according to CNBC reports, includes cooperation in various areas such as artificial intelligence, critical minerals, clean energy, and security. The plan includes coordinated actions across five sectors, including critical and emerging technologies, economic security, technology protection, defense, and space. However, this appears to be a diplomatic strategy by the UK government to mitigate any fallout from their failure to secure the desired trade deal with Washington.

The agreement is also likely a disguised political gesture of controlling the economic collateral damage and to revive its ties with the US. The policy makers of the UK think that only aligning itself with the new economic strategies of the US will  satisfy their whims and wishes.

Analyzing the situation critically, the highlighting of threats from China and Russia appears to be the UK's tactic to appease its strategic partner and justify its actions against these nations. It doesn't provide immediate socio-economic benefits for the UK, but it supports their clandestine agenda in ongoing conflicts such as the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

This partnership may also be a ploy to manage the internal chaos caused by Brexit, internal divisions, questions about governance, and waning support for the Conservative Party. 

However, this move may further marginalize the UK trans-regional outreach and political importance in the days to come. Ultimately, it would weaken the UK's bargaining power within the European Union and diminish its international influence. 

Despite these challenges, British media portrays  the deal as a strategic response to China's growing socio-economic and geopolitical importance. But in reality, it seems the UK-US economic/trade deal is on hold until 2025. 

Interestingly, another major aim of Sunak's trip is to seek blessing from  Biden to adjust the British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace as a candidate for the next Secretary-General of NATO 
even though many EU members have expressed their reluctance.

According to the White House, the UK and US plan to deepen their engagement in the Indo-Pacific, partnering with Pacific Islands, advancing through AUKUS, and expanding joint exercises and planning. 

In conclusion, this partnership dashes any hopes of a full trade deal with the US, a key promise of the 2019 Tory manifesto. The opponent parties of the UK argue that the Conservatives have failed to deliver the comprehensive trade deal they promised. The Conservative party presents the deal as a pragmatic reset of transatlantic relations, but it lacks substance and a systematic approach. It consists of vague commitments with no holistic and comprehensive plan for future actions. Therefore, Sunak's grand claims may soon be forgotten in the political corridors of 10 Downing Street.

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