“Maintaining the strongest possible cooperative relationship across the transatlantic community is important for everyone, including the United States. It is in everyone’s interest that Brexit be transparent, smooth, and orderly. But whatever the outcome of the negotiations between the UK and the EU, Britain should know you will have a strong and reliable trade and investment partner in America.”
Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson
Remarks to The Pilgrims of Great Britain
September 12, 2017
(As prepared for delivery)
AMBASSADOR JOHNSON: It is truly an honor to speak to this distinguished group. I can think of no better place for my first speech as the American ambassador to the United Kingdom than here with the Pilgrims of Great Britain – an organization dedicated to promoting good will between our two great nations. Distinguished Americans such as Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, and Secretaries of State Marshall, Acheson and Kissinger have all addressed the Pilgrims of Great Britain. They all spoke before the Pilgrims because they all had the same deep regard we share for the special relationship – that indispensable alliance – that binds our two countries together.
This is a sentiment felt deeply by President Donald Trump. One of his first actions after moving into the White House was to re-install the famous bust of Winston Churchill to its rightful place directly opposite the President’s desk in the Oval Office. Nor is it a coincidence Theresa May was the first Head of Government to meet the President in the White House. As far as the President is concerned, the United Kingdom, our most enduring ally, is always at the head of the line.
America turns to the United Kingdom first not because we share a common language, but because we share common values. These include a profound respect for democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and the rule of law. We believe in a level playing field, and hard work and innovation. Courage counts for us. So does taking chances. Because we know change and challenges need not be obstacles — they are better seen as stepping stones to new opportunities.
This is unquestionably a time of change. Britain’s decision to leave the European Union takes your country into new territory — but you are not heading there on your own. The United States is committed to standing with the UK through Brexit. Our position on Brexit is clear. We want a strong and prosperous UK to remain a leader in Europe, and we want both the UK and the EU to remain strong leaders globally.
Maintaining the strongest possible cooperative relationship across the transatlantic community is important for everyone, including the United States. It is in everyone’s interest that Brexit be transparent, smooth, and orderly. But whatever the outcome of the negotiations between the UK and the EU, Britain should know you will have a strong and reliable trade and investment partner in America.
This is not just a government position. Americans trade with and invest in Britain because doing so is good business. This was true over one hundred years ago, when my grandfather chose the United Kingdom to establish Johnson and Johnson’s first overseas subsidiary, and is just as true today. Our countries are among each other’s largest inward investors. Americans and Brits hold roughly one trillion dollars of investment and employ approximately one million people in each other’s countries — jobs that have increased prosperity and opportunity in all four countries of the United Kingdom and in every American state.
Trade and investment between the UK and my home state of New Jersey, to take just one example, supports over 60,000 jobs. I am happy to say New Jersey is not special in this regard. Trade between our countries has grown by over 25 percent since the crash of 2008. There is no reason for this trend not to continue. One of my top priorities as Ambassador is to further strengthen our trade and investment ties so we can expand the number of Brits and Americans who benefit from the jobs that trade and investments create.
The growth of jobs and businesses, of course, relies on peace and security. This is a lesson that my years in professional football has taught me. Fans won’t bring their families to a stadium if they don’t feel safe there. Security is job one when it comes to creating jobs, and dealing with safety and security is where our indispensable alliance works best. Our law enforcement and security services share intelligence, expertise, and best practices to better combat terrorism, organized crime, and new threats like cyberattacks on our hospitals and banks.
The closeness of the U.S. and UK security partnership not only benefits our two nations: it makes the whole world a better and safer place. For over 100 years, beginning in World War I and continuing today, America and Britain have stood side by side to defend the oppressed and offer hope to those living under tyranny. I am particularly proud of the role my 97 year-old mother played in those efforts when she served in the U.S. Navy teaching celestial navigation to sailors in World War II.
Today the United States and United Kingdom are central pillars within NATO. As President Trump has affirmed, NATO remains a foundation of international peace and security. The United States is fully committed to defending our NATO allies. The American people will never forget that Article Five has only been invoked once — sixteen years ago yesterday in fact — when the Allies came to our defense, and we will not forget their sacrifices and losses.
Together with the United Kingdom, we will continue to strengthen NATO to meet today’s threats and prepare for those yet to come. The United Kingdom is a clear leader here, not only meeting its NATO obligation to spend 2% of GDP on defense investment, but also encouraging other Allies to step up their contributions for the sake of our collective defense and security.
Maintaining and strengthening security allows us to focus on prosperity and building a more promising future for our children. It means standing up to Russian aggression. It means working together to defeat ISIS. We need to do this not only in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria, but also by rooting out ISIS cells throughout the world. As leaders in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, the United States and the United Kingdom have worked side by side to push ISIS out of most of the territory it used to hold in Iraq, and much of its territory in Syria.
We are also working closely with the UK and our Coalition partners to halt the flow of foreign fighters to the region, prevent terrorists from accessing the international financial system, and to counter online propaganda. As President Trump has said since day one of his Administration, ISIS will be defeated, and the United States and United Kingdom will continue to lead the charge.
Just as we have been resolute partners in defense, the UK and the U.S. have also been principal architects and supporters of the great international institutions that have helped to end conflicts, stamp out disease, promote growth, ease poverty, and relieve famine. The United Kingdom has been, and will continue to be a global leader not just in NATO, but also within the United Nations, the G-7, and the Organization of European Security Cooperation. British leadership in these institutions, and its global influence as a world leader in general, has been instrumental in galvanizing the international community to respond to everything from the Ebola outbreak, Russia’s illegal actions Ukraine, and North Korea’s dangerous provocations.
Closer to home, the United States and Britain, along with the Republic of Ireland, will continue to support Northern Ireland. One of my first visits as Ambassador will be to Belfast. The U.S. has made vital contributions to peace and prosperity there, and we continue to stand ready to assist as needed. I hope the parties will have formed a power-sharing government by the time of my visit – the people of Northern Ireland need and deserve a functioning government that can continue to advance the political and economic progress made since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Even closer to home, Grosvenor Square has always been central to U.S.-UK diplomacy. John Adams, the first American representative to the Court of St. James’s, moved to Grosvenor Square in 1785. For over two centuries the square has continued to be a place where our countries coordinate on issues of both war and peace. During the Second World War, General Eisenhower planned the Normandy invasion from his headquarters at number 20 Grosvenor Square. King George the Sixth and Winston Churchill joined former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the Square in 1948 to dedicate a monument to former President Franklin Roosevelt – a tribute organized by The Pilgrims in honor of our nations’ enduring partnership and shared sacrifice.
Our current Embassy building has been our home since 1960, and generations of Americans and Brits will always remember the legacy of “Little America” in Grosvenor Square. It should come as no surprise to you that Embassy London is the most sought after mission within the Department of State. My team is literally made up of the best of the best who want to work in tandem with our closest, most important ally on the issues that matter most – security, prosperity and human dignity.
But as we prepare for the next 200 years together, it is time for us to invest in the future. As many of you know, our Embassy, one of the biggest American missions we have, will move to a new location in Nine Elms early next year. Our new building is a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient facility that will be able to accommodate the growing number of personnel assigned to this mission. That growth is a direct reflection of the importance of our bilateral relationship. The new U.S. Embassy will represent the best of American and British technology, architecture, and art. It is an exciting opportunity for us to set down roots in a new community and to start writing the next chapter of the Special Relationship.
Together, as we face some of today’s most complex problems, it will be through our reliance on and trust in one another that we will be able to pave the way towards a better and brighter future.
I look forward to getting to know and work with you as we forge new paths together. I am honored to have been given this chance by President Trump. As you know, an American Ambassador is the personal representative of the President.
Many of you do not know the President. I have known him for over thirty years. I know the President, and I know his family. My wife Suzanne and the First Lady are great friends. Our sons were born three days apart in the same hospital. Our relationship is long standing, personal and close. And I can promise you, when you get to know him, you’ll like him.
Thank you again for having me here to speak and for the very warm welcome.