Expert View

Note to Brexiters: John McCain was pro-European

by Denis MacShane | 28.08.2018

Denis MacShane is a former Minister of Europe and was a Labour MP for 18 years.

It is amusing to read and hear anti-European British politicians shower praise upon John McCain, who was one of the biggest opponents of Brexit in the US. The geopolitical weakening of Britain as a nation with global reach has not been much discussed in the domestic Brexit debate. But McCain, arguably the finest practising foreign policy politician the US Senate has had in recent years, understood instinctively what was at stake.

In March 2016 McCain declared Britain’s membership of the EU was a “vital contributor to the security and prosperity of Europe and the United States.” He added: “Whatever the outcome of the referendum on EU membership, it will send a strong message to Vladimir Putin… This is a decision for the British people, but one with profound implications for our common security and our shared values.”  

McCain visited European capitals and hotspots in the Balkans, Ukraine and Georgia as chair of the US Senate’s powerful Armed Services committee. He warned constantly against the Kremlin’s game plan under Putin to chip away and erode the unity of the EU as a foreign policy and economic power.

Brexit remains Putin’s biggest single foreign policy win without having to fire a shot. The UK needs to hold an investigation into exactly what happened – as Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, said at the weekend – a call echoed by Damian Collins, the Conservative MP who chairs the culture, media and sport committee.

Demand a vote on the Brexit deal

Click here to find out more

In March 2017, McCain noted that Russia was now trying to influence elections in France and in Germany. He said that if it succeeded it would be “a death warrant for democracy. It’s an act of destruction that is certainly more lethal than dropping some bombs.”

The European Commission is rushing through new laws to make illegal EU political groups taking money directly or indirectly from foreign powers. Putin has specialised in supporting anti-EU political forces headed by politicians like France’s Marine Le Pen, Italy’s Matteo Salvini, or Sweden’s Democrats.

Speaking in March 2017 at the Brussels Forum, McCain said : “I trust the EU,” in opposition to US president Donald Trump, who said in January 2017 that the UK “was so smart in getting out” of the EU and that Nato was “obsolete”.

McCain declared that the EU was “one of the most important alliances” for the US and that the EU and Nato were the “best two sums in history”, which have maintained peace for the last 70 year and added that the EU and the US needed to develop “more cooperation, more connectivity”.

McCain used language of enthusiasm for the EU that has rarely passed a UK prime minister’s lips in recent years. But from Arizona he had a better vision of why the EU is important for democratic values and for the required alliances and partnerships to promote them.

He was a Republican Conservative not a liberal or left-leaning politician. But in today’s fight to stop the Brexit destruction machine, it is worth recalling this US Senator’s wisdom about the value of the EU and why Britain should stay a member.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

Tags: Categories: Articles, Brexit

5 Responses to “Note to Brexiters: John McCain was pro-European”

  • John Mc Cain was a “pro-european” ?

    haha, WTF !?
    please stop the Kool-Aid before going to bed, Mr McShane, that ain’t giving you any good dreams

    John McCain was a patrician US conservative. in European politics, that would put him straight to the right of the spectrum, along the lines of a Liam Fox or Gavin Williamson (not a compliment, mind you).
    he was a right-wing and partisan, but because less so than the nutjobs teapartyists of the Republican party, in comparison that made him look “almost” reasonable, if not moderate.

    remember that was him pushing for US military involvement in pretty much EVERYWHERE in the world, in order to impose his version of Pax Americana.
    probably more libertarian than MAGA, but no less US-centrist and imperialist.
    his turn to the pro-military, pro-intervention came somewhere around the 90′ (for ideological and financial and political reasons).

    if McCain could be said “pro-european”, then it would in the mindset of CIA honchos back after WW2, that is help to rebuild and reorganize Europe (like having a benign view of the then EEC) in order for it to be a buffer and proxy against the soviets.
    were Europeans decide to disaffranchise themselves from US tutelage, that would be a big no-no, which he regularly chastised at the Munich Conference for Security.

    Humans have short and selective memories. none more so than hack, pundits and politicos.
    Mr McShane, you tick all boxes … congrats !!

  • Pro-European is very different to Pro-EU. European culture and harmony has been gradually eroded and destroyed by EU policies, unrestricted illegal migration and free movement. This has pushed many moderates to the right of politics as they have been ignored by mainstream politicians.

  • @stopfreemovement

    no “moderates” lurch to the xenophobic right wing.
    only those who were previously too ashamed to vent their bile in public do so, once such actions are seen as legitimized by the racist panderings of unprincipled politicians and pen-for-hire media pundits.

  • As an aside: funny how people who are the most unable to engage in a normal, reasonable discussion, without attempting to “win” the argument by screaming like someone having a hysterical seizure or by making an “opponent” ridiculous, all love the use of funny names to hide their identity. Just what are they afraid of? Being found out as infantiles by people that know them?
    John McCain was a very conservative yet reasonable man, in his very own, American way. He never held back when finding he had to criticize, as Trump noticed several times to his dismay. And as a former military man saw clearly what Vlad Putin had to gain from that for other Europeans still barely understandable Brit idiocy called Brexit. Whatever he did or thought before that is of hardly any real value when discussing that. McCain was absolutely right.

  • I agree wholeheartedly with Peter Vandermark in all his comments. Mr McCain was certainly a right wing politician, but in the US since the last world war, support for European integration of whatever form has been a bi-partisan policy of both Democrats and Republicans until the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House.

    As to the EU policies on unrestricted and illegal immigration and freedom of movement, I would point out that it was the decision of the UK government not to apply the safeguards built into the Freedom of Movement Directive which would have given the UK the necessary control on EU immigration . As to non EU immigration this is a question solely for the UK government.