The period August 1966–September
1967 saw a decline in Wilson’s commitment to President Johnson and to
the United States, both personally and in the wider context of Britishforeignpolicy. In February 1967, the Prime Minister tried to use the visit
to London of the Russian leader Alexei Kosygin to bring Hanoi and Washington
to the negotiating table over Vietnam. Wilson was sincere – if
Throughout the debates on EEC membership, sovereignty has been referred to by
several of the leading actors to either advance or prohibit the cause of
Britain in Europe. This chapter is therefore devoted to the history and
concept of this highly complex term. The internal and external challenges to
parliamentary sovereignty are examined, including the power of the
executive, governance, globalisation and British foreign policy. Numerous
examples of the various types of sovereignty and how these have been
utilised by MPs are included. These examples show precisely how the term can
be open to exploitation, particularly over the course of Britain’s
relationship with Europe. This chapter therefore demonstrates how this
concept has been used by members of the political elite to influence an
unaware British public.
analysis noted that
Britain’s standing in the United States depended ultimately on
‘our practical contribution to the Western Alliance rather than on any
particular feeling of United Kingdom/United States interdependence’. 48 It was commented in 1964 that
the ‘alliance with the United States’ was ‘the most
important single factor’ in Britishforeignpolicy: ‘As much the
weaker partner, dependent on overseas trade and with world
Harold Wilson and Lyndon B. Johnson: a ‘special relationship’?
Gordon Walker, Stewart and Brown all supported the idea of close ties
between Britain and the United States, but Wilson’s input was such
that, as Richard Crossman commented, Britishforeignpolicy was
characterised above all by the ‘peculiarly Wilsonian touch’ of a
‘personal reliance on LBJ’. 27 The Foreign Office backed up Wilson’s support for
the continued close relationship with Washington and for the British
Rhetoric of Appeasement: Hitler’s Legitimation and BritishForeignPolicy, 1938–39’, Security Studies , 24:1 (2015); P.E. Caquet, ‘The Balance of Forces on the Eve of Munich’, The International History Review , 40:1 (2018); Yvon Lacaze, ‘Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process during the Munich Crisis, 1938’, in Robert Boyce (ed.), French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918–1940: The Decline and Fall of a Great Power (London: Routledge, 1998); Martin Thomas, ‘France and the Czechoslovak Crisis’, Diplomacy & Statecraft 10:2–3 (1999); Peter Jackson, ‘French
relations between the Labour government and the United States,
characterised above all by Wilson’s determination to secure his ties
with the White House, in keeping with his personal inclinations and his view
that close cooperation with Washington was fundamental to Britishforeignpolicy.
The Labour victory
President Johnson had never feared a
Labour victory in Britain, but he felt it necessary to ease any
Hungary and Poland in the vortex of the Munich Crisis of 1938
. II, Germany and Czechoslovakia 1937–38, Department of State Publication 3548 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1949), pp. 1014–16, quoted in William R. Rock, Appeasement on Trial: BritishForeignPolicy and Its Critics, 1938–1939 , (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1966), p. 138.
44 Rock, Appeasement on Trial , p. 138.
45 Hungary also asked for the transfer of two border crossings (Slovenské Nové Mesto and Šáhy) from Czechoslovakia as a ‘goodwill gesture’.
46 András Frey, ‘Danubian Chronicle’, The Hungarian Quarterly , 4:4 (Winter 1938), p. 769
frequently to meet
tactical pressures from within his own party that … he had left
himself no room for manoeuvre’. When Wilson first took office in
October 1964, said Bruce, ‘he accepted the principle of the continuity
of Britishforeignpolicy, which was based upon the long established
friendly relationship with the US’. This meant that Wilson was
‘prepared to cooperate with the United States on major American
The increase of British trade passing through the Danube delta highlighted its increasing importance for Britishforeignpolicy.
Increasing trade on the Danube created access to markets and the potential for vast material wealth. However, this is not a simple story of interests driving foreign policy. The promotion of free trade was linked intimately with civilizational discourses. In a speech before the House of Commons in 1842, Lord Palmerston advocated for the repeal of the Corn Laws by laying out this liberal