Obama, Boris and the great American ‘hypocrisy’

by David Hannay | 14.03.2016

If it is true that Boris Johnson aspires to become foreign secretary and perhaps prime minister one day, he has chosen an odd way to burnish his credentials by in effect calling President Obama a hypocrite.

The insult is odder still given the Leave campaign’s claim that Britain outside the EU would have no difficulty negotiating a free trade deal with the United States, its second biggest trading partner after the EU. Many Americans may oppose Obama’s policies but they do not usually appreciate it when foreigners bad-mouth their head of state.

The mayor of London needs to be careful with the facts. It is true, as he writes in his latest Daily Telegraph column, that the United States has not ratified either the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court or the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (although it accepts the latter as being customary international law, which it respects). But that is not the doing of the US executive branch, headed by the president, which participated in the negotiation of both these new pieces of international law; it is entirely due to the refusal of the Senate, with a Republican majority, to ratify either of them.

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Is there not also a touch of hypocrisy in Johnson’s own position? Eurosceptics say they want to free Britain from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and those “foreign” judges. Why then are they not also campaigning the UK to withdraw from the Rome Statute and the Law of the Sea Convention, both of which subject us to rulings by “foreign” judges? And while they are about it, what about Britain’s acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice?

It seems to have come as a surprise to Boris that Obama wants Britain to stay in the EU on the grounds of the US national interest. How strange! What other considerations is he meant to bear in mind? If the Eurosceptics are now saying that they could not care less if we ignore the US interest in a stronger EU with the UK a member, they really are standing 70 years of British foreign policy on its head.

Edited by Alan Wheatley


One Response to “Obama, Boris and the great American ‘hypocrisy’”

  • Boris has a point – no – several points.
    Unless things have changed the USA has a special act, I think the Jones Act, that prohibits foreign ships operating in their waters.
    They would never sacrifice their independence as we have done.
    If they are so keen on the EU, why don’t they ask to join?