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Foreign Policy Foreign Policy

Build upon our special relationship with the United States

Last updated: 10:44am 13 September 2019

We will build upon our existing special relationship with the United States…

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.38

Our verdict

The phrase “special relationship” was first used to describe the relationship between Britain and the US by Winston Churchill. It has since been used by politicians to “explain that the UK has a privileged place in American strategic calculation… can rely on American support and will always be consulted by the Americans when they make big decisions”. There is debate over the nature of the “special relationship”, with some arguing that it is as much cultural as political, and others questioning whether it is “special” at all.

The second half of this sentence in the manifesto speaks of economic and security partnerships, so we’re looking primarily at those ties with the US to determine the status of this pledge.

According to the House of Commons International Trade Committe:

“The US is the UK’s largest single-country trading partner and largest contributor of foreign direct investment.”

The Committee reported that a trade deal with the US is the the Department for International Trade’s first priority for new trade agreements after Brexit. Such a deal could certainly be described as building on the “special relationship”.

In terms of security partnerships, the Oxford Research Group found that of 54 states with which the US has collective defence arrangements:

“none of these countries yet comes close to matching its defence and security partnership with the UK”

President Donald Trump showed early support for Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, and at the G7 summit in August 2019 was broadly supportive of his premiership, so it appears the two leaders could strengthen trade and security ties.

Whilst collaboration over security seems assured, the nature of a future trade deal between the US and the UK is as uncertain as the outcome of the Brexit process. Until the details are known, this pledge remains ‘in progress’. Follow this policy to stay up to date.

Build your own special relationship with the details

There's always room for debate

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