The advice was surprisingly open — and public: In front of the assembled U.S. and British press, Barack Obama urged British Prime Minister David Cameron to repair the U.K.’s relations with the continental EU before London thinks of withdrawing from the union. The fact that this otherwise reserved president chose this time to intervene directly and bluntly, virtually as a loud American, in the domestic policy of a close ally is noteworthy in its rarity.
In the face of the recent newly calibrated strategic orientation of the U.S. this is only logical: On the one hand, Obama’s second cabinet has rediscovered Europe as a partner. On the other hand, the White House wants to forge this new inclination toward its old partner into a free trade treaty — before the midterm elections at the end of 2014. They say such a treaty would bring a half a percentage point of additional growth to each of the two national economies.
The preparations in Washington are already starting: Obama and his people are positioning themselves; lobbyists and public relations people are preparing the pitch; the Senate is discussing scenarios for a two-party compromise. Crises within Europe are not desirable in this context. If the Brits want to have their “splendid isolation” already, as many in D.C. think, then it would be much better if they do it after the signing of the treaty.