Commentary: Utah symbolizes the bond between Britain and America

In this May 2, 2019, photo, people stand in a replica landing craft near a statue of WWII U.S. soldiers on Utah Beach in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Normandy, France. With fewer veterans and witnesses able to share personal stories and memories, the French who owe their freedom to D-Day’s fighters are more determined than ever to keep alive the memory of the battle and its significance. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

On the northern coast of France, there is a beach called Utah. When Britain and America joined forces with our Allies to begin the liberation of Europe during World War Two, one of the beaches where US troops landed was codenamed after the Beehive State.

This windswept expanse of sand and shingle, nearly 5,000 miles from Salt Lake City, has been universally known as Utah ever since, in tribute to the American soldiers who stormed ashore on 6th June 1944.

President Trump will pay a state visit to Britain this week to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day (another codename that has become permanent). He will visit the English coastal town of Portsmouth, where American and British soldiers embarked together for the greatest seaborne invasion in history.

This remarkable event will demonstrate the strength of the friendship between our two countries. We may be separated by an ocean, but Britain and America are united by beliefs that make distance irrelevant: our shared devotion to liberty, democracy and the rule of law.

The story of D-Day reminds us that our countries have done more to advance and defend these ideals than any other two nations in the world.

In some ways, Utah symbolises the bond between Britain and America. No other state in the Union has so many inhabitants of British ancestry per capita.

I was delighted to learn that Cedar City stages a Shakespeare Festival, the Utah Scottish Association organize their version of the Highland Games and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir owes its origins to immigrants from Wales.

Meanwhile, the University of Utah runs a British Studies program and Brigham Young University has operated a London Centre for students and faculty members since 1978.

Utah is famed for its gold and silver – and Britain buys about a quarter of everything you export. British-based companies, including Rio Tinto, are by far the largest foreign employers in your state, creating over 8,000 jobs.

In 2012, I was the minister in charge of staging the Olympic Games in London. The gold for our medals was mined near Salt Lake City.

Utah has invested in science and innovation, giving you the fastest growing technology sector in the U.S. – and making you a natural partner for the UK. We have more technology start-ups than any other European country. Last year, the Global Innovation Index placed Britain 4th in the world, ahead of China (17th) and, dare I say, the U.S. (6th).

Across the U.S., Britain is the number one foreign investor and UK companies employ about one million Americans. On this side of the Atlantic, U.S. companies provide jobs for roughly the same number of Britons.

But I know that friends of Britain have been puzzled or even worried by our national argument over leaving the European Union.

So I want to reassure you that while the UK is a relatively small country — about the size of Utah, as it happens — we are in the global top five for just about everything that matters.

We have the fifth biggest economy in the world and the second largest military budget in NATO. The City of London is the number one financial centre in our hemisphere.

Don’t forget that Britain also possesses superb armed forces, capable of operating anywhere in the world, and backed up by two new aircraft carriers and a nuclear deterrent. Our soldiers have been shoulder-to-shoulder with yours in Afghanistan from the very beginning in 2001. Our armed forces helped yours to take apart Daesh in the Middle East. In short, Britain is the most capable ally that America has.

We are now in the process of choosing a new prime minister to take over from Theresa May. All of the contenders – and I happen to be one of them – are of the same mind when it comes to the importance of Britain’s friendship with the US.

The lesson of D-Day and of our victory in World War II is that when Britain and America stand together in defence of our shared ideals, we can make the world an infinitely better place. The Beehive State may be landlocked, but there is a distant beach that will always be known as Utah.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt is foreign secretary of the United Kingdom.

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