Alphen, Netherlands. 9 January. It is not often I am moved to write two blogs in a day but I really must. Last week I warned that a "senior administration official" was going to lecture Britain about its relationship with the EU. I chose not to mention his name out of respect for his position and indeed for him, although I knew full well who he was. Today, the US Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Phil Gordon broke cover to warn against Britain leaving the EU. He also counselled against the British people being offered a referendum on perhaps the greatest single choice they have faced since at least World War Two; to remain a self-governing state or by accepting the sovereignty-sapping future EU a German-led Eurozone and Brussels Centre are driving toward see Britain in time reduced to to all intents a province of a 'united' Europe. Make no mistake; that is the choice on offer.
Now, I have known Phil Gordon for many years from the days when I worked for the EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris and Phil was a Washington academic. Whilst I respect him greatly Phil Gordon was and is the closest thing in DC to an EU groupie. He was also very close to my French boss of the time and the French Government. Whilst Gordon did his best to choose his words carefully listening to Phil today warn that "referendums have turned countries inward" it was hard to be sure if this was the US Government speaking or Phil Gordon.
What is clear is that a campaign is now underway to influence a very influenceable David Cameron ahead of his keynote speech on Europe which he will make later this month. Cameron simply does not get the huge strategic issues at stake. Gordon's comments also imply a campaign by several foreign powers and some from within the Whitehall Establishment to deny the British people a voice on their future.
Whilst some of what Phil Gordon said today makes sense, such as the need to keep the EU looking outward (see my earlier blog of today) the implication of his intervention is that the British people should be forced to accept a model of 'Europe' they have never wanted, never voted for and never will want. It is a Europe in which the European nation-state will steadily be hollowed out and power transferred to an impossibly undemocratic and probably utterly unworkable Brussels Centre. This is something Phil Gordon and his fellow Americans would never accept for Americans so why should we British be forced to accept it?
At this point I could get all precious about Gordon's comments being an egregious American interference in British internal affairs but the US has earned the right to comment on Britain. The EU decision Britain finally makes will impact the US. However, Phil Gordon and the Obama Administration must be very careful not to be seen to bully the British people over this matter. The EU of today is not the EU of tomorrow and there is nothing about the Eurozone and its governance that the British find at all attractive.
Nor should Americans confuse anti-EU Euro-scepticism with Euro-realism. Rather than lecturing we British to stay in the EU at all costs Washington should be backing Britain to help ensure that the fantasy of political union is brought to an end, that the European Commission and European Parliament are put back in their respective toy boxes and that the EU goes back to being what it should always have been; a tight alliance of nation-states with power resting firmly in national capitals. That is the only form of legitimacy that works in Europe. Implicit in Phil Gordon's comments is an America equally comfortable with the idea of one large state dominating Europe with a Britain that is prevented By EU statute from playing the balancing role it has always played in a German-leaning Europe.
America needs to go back to the traditional principles of American diplomacy in Europe, Mr Gordon, and rediscover its Euro-realism.