US to UK: time for discipline on the EU

Yesterday’s meeting between Hillary Clinton and William Hague seems to have gone well.  The Washington Post reports that there was a “simpatico vibe” in the room.  Washington seems comfortable with Britain’s new politics – Mr Hague even noted that “Vice President Biden has had an excellent chat on the telephone with our new Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg”.  (I don’t know if Al Gore gave John Prescott a similar ring back in 1997, but if he did, I’d kill for a copy of the phone transcript).

The generally pro-EU Obama team are probably quite relieved that the Lib Dems will act as brake on the Tories’ Eurosceptic tendencies.  Still, Secretary Clinton used her joint press conference with Hague to underline their shared interest in “restoring confidence in the financial sector in Europe and in the Eurozone as well as the global economy.”  Given the kerfuffles over the last week over the UK’s refusal to get dragged into the fight to save the Eurozone, that was an interesting choice of words.

Mr. Hague, not a natural friend of the EU, responded thus:

I reiterated my determination that the European Union should be a strong partner with the United States in meeting our shared challenges and the determination of the new British Government to play a highly active and activist role in the European Union from the very beginning.

He went on to talk rather more fulsomely about how US-UK ties are “extraordinary”, and neither “backward-looking” nor “nostalgic”. But if you want to boil all this down to essentials, I’d suggest the following: (i) Mrs Clinton effectively said, “you’d better show discipline when it comes to the EU”; and (ii) Mr Hague basically said “OK”.