British Ambassador talks crises, politics and sports with W&M crowd| June 11, 2010
British Ambassador to the United States Sir Nigel Sheinwald visited the College of William & Mary Thursday and spoke about the challenges facing the United Kingdom and the United States and how the two can continue to build on their relationship in the future.
The event, held in the College's Wren Chapel, was moderated by William & Mary's Diplomat-in-Residence Mitchell Reiss. It included a question and answer session that addressed issues ranging from Britain's role in Afghanistan and the impact of the BP oil spill to the challenges facing his country's new government and the upcoming World Cup match between England and the U.S.
Sheinwald's talk centered on the special relationships between the U.K. and the U.S. The two have faced many challenges together throughout the years, he added, and that strong partnership will continue.
"It is a relationship that is firmly anchored in our shared history, our common values and the long-established ties between our people," said Sheinwald, who has served as the British Ambassador to the United States since October of 2007. "Our partnership with the United States will remain a cornerstone of our foreign policy."
He also spoke about the economic struggles the United Kingdom is currently facing and the challenges facing its new government. He said the country must deal with its growing debt, build confidence with investors in the rebound of the economy and lower interest rates.
"Today we spend more on debt interest than we do running schools in the U.K. That must change," Sheinwald said.
During the question-and-answer session, the Ambassador was asked a number of foreign policy questions, including one about the ongoing military effort in Afghanistan and the timing in the joint effort between the U.S. and the U.K. to begin negotiations with the Taliban.
"From a British perspective, it's right we're starting to think about this and prepare for it now," said Sheinwald, adding he agrees that more military pressure will bring Taliban leaders to the negotiating table. "It's going to take some time."
"We are looking for a tipping point when we will start negotiating with Taliban leaders," Sheinwald said.
A member of the audience also asked the Ambassador about the reaction in the United Kingdom to the oil spill by BP, a British-owned company, and ongoing efforts in the Gulf Coast.
"The reaction in the United Kingdom is similar to the reaction here," said Sheinwald, referring to the great concern over the environmental impacts of the spill. "This is a tragedy."
He was also asked about the upcoming World Cup match Saturday in South Africa. While England may be favored over the United States, Sheinwald reminded the crowd that was the case in 1950 - the last time the two countries faced off on soccer's biggest stage. The United States won that match "one - nil," he added
"As an ambassador, I'm confident in the outcome," he said. "As a fan, I worry."
At the conclusion of the event Sheinwald was presented with a William & Mary soccer jersey, from Women's Soccer Head Coach John Daly, bearing his last name, and of course, the number 50 on the back - a reminder of U.S.'s victory 60 years ago.
"I may wear this Saturday," he joked.
The Ambassador was scheduled to continue his tour through Virginia Friday and was heading to Norfolk to tour the HMS Ark Royal, a symbol of the U.S.-U.K. partnership, and their support for one another as nations in the past, present, and future.