By Jason Lemon
The U.K. and France need to support one another against a “rising China” and a “less reliable” U.S., former British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.
Writing for British newspaper The Telegraph, Hague, who served as foreign secretary from 2010 to 2014 under the previous government of Prime Minister David Cameron, has warned against tensions amid Brexit negotiations.
“In the world of a rising China and a less reliable America, Britain and France will need each other more,” the politician wrote. “Brexit is a big complication, but if the EU is incapable of forging a special relationship with its closest, largest democratic neighbor, even when it is offered one, its chances of surviving the 21st century will be diminished.”
Hague argued that French President Emmanuel Macron and his government are making negotiations over Brexit more difficult. He said that British ministers have clearly identified France as the “biggest national obstacle” to a successful post-Brexit agreement with the EU.
In a 2016 referendum, the U.K. narrowly voted to leave the EU. Following the decision, the British government has been working to iron out details of a new relationship with mainland Europe. Many European Union nations have taken a bitter stance toward London’s efforts, as they view the move as hurting British and European interests.
Prime Minister Theresa May has struggled in recent weeks to smooth over tensions with Europe to get a deal that will adequately address the concerns of the U.K. Internal government tensions led to a series of high-profile resignations at the beginning of July, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis.
Despite tensions within the U.K., and between the island nation and the EU, Hague has encouraged all sides to recognize common threats and work together.
Disregarding longstanding ties, President Donald Trump has taken a staunchly oppositional stance toward Europe. He even called the continent, as well as Russia and China, a “foe” to the U.S. in July. Under Trump, Washington has also frustrated European leaders by stepping away from the Paris Climate Accords, withdrawing from the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal and launching a trade war. Trump has reportedly encouraged other European nations to leave the EU as well.
Meanwhile, China’s economic and political influence continues to grow throughout the world, specifically with its multi-trillion dollar “Belt and Road” initiative. The massive infrastructure project aims to better connect China to the world through a series of maritime and land trade routes. Offering low-interest loans to economically poor countries to build highways, ports and trains, China is rapidly increasing its geopolitical influence.
Top U.S. officials have warned that China should be a bigger concern than Russia. Retired U.S. Marine Corps General Jim Jones, who formerly served as NATO European supreme commander, told The Hill in July that China is “a much longer-term problem.”
Michael Collins, the deputy assistant director of the CIA’s East Asia Mission Center, told the Aspen Security Forum last month that the threat from China is the most serious currently faced by the U.S. The intelligence official argued that China’s current actions in the world could be defined as “fundamentally a cold war.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray told attendees at the same forum that China is currently seen by his agency as the most significant threat as well.