You may have heard of the “special relationship” between the United States and United Kingdom (UK).
The term sounds rather mystical, but is actually based on over 200 years of political, cultural, economic, and military relations between the two countries. It characterizes the nations’ close cooperation and alignment, most famously emphasized by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in his 1946 speech, “The Sinews of Peace.”
Beginning in 1977, the annual British-American Parliamentary Group (BAPG) exchange embodies the special relationship on an individual level. The program brings US and UK government counterparts together in Washington, DC, Boston, and congressional districts around the country in order to strengthen transatlantic relations. To date, the BAPG has sent over 250 UK Members of Parliament (MPs) to the United States, and is now an important component of the ongoing US-UK partnership.
The BAPG 2014, facilitated by Meridian International Center through the Department of State’s International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), brought MPs Ian Austin, Andrew Bridgen, Iain McKenzie, and Nigel Mills to the United States.
The program began on July 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. The opening reception at Meridian included a briefing on the United States’ federalist system, and the opening lunch featured speeches from Brad Fitch regarding his work with the Congressional Management Foundation and Governor Jim Blanchard about his time as a Congressman, Governor, and Ambassador. Subsequently, the MPs proceeded to the Department of State for an afternoon of meetings. The rest of the week packed a similarly full schedule, with visits to the White House, Department of Defense, Congressional Budget Office, Government Accountability Office, Library of Congress, and Congressional Research Service; each meeting served to inform the MPs about different aspects of the US political process, policy development, and federal government structure.
While in DC, the MPs also spent two days at the Capitol attending 26 individual appointments with US Representatives. These multi-partisan meetings provided participants with the opportunity to discuss pressing global issues of joint importance, develop greater understanding of each country’s respective domestic concerns, and forge personal connections with one another.
— Rep. Lee Terry (@LEETERRYNE) July 23, 2014
This year’s BAPG program occurred in the midst of several critical junctures for the US and UK; many discussions centered around foreign policy in the Middle East, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), healthcare, immigration, and the upcoming Scottish Referendum.
After a busy and productive week of meetings in DC, the MPs proceeded to visit the congressional districts of US Representatives Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM). Each Representative hosted an MP for the weekend, and their hospitality served as one of the most engaging and unique aspects of the program. The constituency visits allowed the MPs to gain first-hand knowledge of the breadth and diversity of the United States, and to see US politics enacted at the local level.
— Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (@RepGosar) July 25, 2014
Following their district visits, the MPs reconvened in Boston for a final three days of meetings with state government officials, discussions with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a reception hosted by the British Consulate-General.
The BAPG 2014 concluded on July 29, 2014, with new connections made and several threads added to the fabric of the US-UK special relationship.