Expert View

Trump’s Iran policy shows folly of quitting EU

by David Hannay | 15.10.2017

David Hannay is a member of the House of Lords and former UK ambassador to the EU and UN.

It has taken Donald Trump’s aberrant handling of the nuclear deal with Iran to bring home to the government that our national interests coincide at least as often with those of our European partners as they do with those of an erratically led and ill-informed US administration. About time too. This realisation has been creeping up on us ever since the prime minister’s unfortunate hand-holding episode with the new US president last winter.

Now Trump has swatted aside the arguments against putting the Iran deal at risk of both his own professional advisers and of his closest allies. He has embarked on a course of action which could very possibly result in Iran over time acquiring nuclear weapons; and one which runs the risk of triggering yet another conflict in the Middle East, a region on which we continue to depend for imports of oil and gas, for a substantial portion of our exports, and to which we are particularly vulnerable from large migratory flows.

But Trump’s actions have much wider negative consequences for us than simply regional ones. Our government has, quite rightly, identified as a major national interest the preservation and, where possible, the strengthening of a rules-based international order.

But here is the country we call our closest ally systematically dismantling that order – dropping out of the Paris climate change accords and acting contrary to them, withdrawing from UNESCO, pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations and seeking to re-negotiate the North Atlantic Free Trade Area. And, in the case of Iran, simply ignoring the testimony of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose job it is to verify the Iran agreement, that Iran remains in full conformity with its provisions. Hardly an encouragement to anybody trying to find a diplomatic solution to the tensions arising over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.

And which countries are in the lead in resisting this bonfire of international rule? Our European partners.

All this surely ought to point up how sensible the prime minister was in her Florence speech to put so much emphasis on her pitch for a strong and unconditional new security dimension to Britain’s relations with its European partners, how feckless those who sought to leave the EU in the first place were in failing to see how damaging that could be to our influence in an uncertain and rapidly changing world, and how utterly irresponsible are those who advocate ending our negotiations in acrimony and without a deal.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon