Washington, DC- Right from the start, Ben Harris-Quinney, Chairman of the Bow Group, the United Kingdom’s (UK) oldest conservative think tank, wanted to make things clear: “I consider myself a friend of Spain, and I believe a strong “UK-Spain” relationship would be mutually beneficial.” However, things are not always as one wants them to be.
Ben’s presentation elaborated on the conditions that made possible a particularly strong UK-Spain alliance between 1996 and 2004, and on the changing political landscape that contributed to dilute this partnership from 2004 onwards. First, the socialist Spanish government of president Zapatero decided to realign Spain with the Franco-German axis, and then, its conservative successor, has focused more on sensitive and divisive issues, such as Gibraltar, than on mutual interests. On the other end, when the Tories, led by David Cameron, came to power in the UK, “euroscepticism” came along with them. This “euroscepticism” had not only to do with the European Union’s institutions and procedures, but also with a particular way of understanding British geopolitical priorities and bilateral alliances in contemporary times, which Ben eloquently explained by providing numerous references to the internal political context of the UK in recent years.
The lack of a particular strategic interest in Spain from a British viewpoint may have also contributed to a number of miscommunications andmisperceptions on both ends, which have lead us to the current state of affairs, as Ben pointed out.
As way of escaping this pervasive dynamic, our guest, who is also the President of “Conservatives Abroad – Madrid”, suggested to reassess what our current common interests may be and focus on building trust as a first step to achieve them.
In the Q&A session that followed Ben’s presentation, attendants asked and made comments on a wide range of issues, from the economic implications of a stronger UK-Spain relationship to the strategic connotations of the UK seeing Spain as a gateway to the Latin American market.”