Britain Analysis: A European Exit Damaging the US-UK “Special Relationship”

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PHOTO: President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his resignation following Britain’s EU referendum


Written in partnership with The Conversation:


At 4:40 a.m. on Friday, June 23, 2016, the BBC’s David Dimbleby announced the “historic moment” of Leave’s victory in the European Union referendum.

One of those historic consequences will be damage to the US-UK “special relationship” that has been a pillar of Britain’s political, economic, and military strategy since 1945.

Brexit’s campaigners have insisted that the UK can easily replace its economic position within the EU with the primacy of links with the US. That assertion — whether from genuine belief or political manoeuvring — is misguided.

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Britain Analysis: Brexit Will Damage the US-UK “Special Relationship”
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For all the myths of the “special relationship”, US interests rest on links with Europe, rather than with London. From the interlinked creation of NATO and the EU’s ancestors, such as the European Economic Community, to the support of Western Europe as a bulwark against Soviet Communism to the post-Cold War strategy of “engagement and enlargement”, America’s economic and political strategists have built their approach on a UK inside Europe, not detached from it.

The current US leadership has not been shy about reasserting this. To the contrary, President Obama made clear in March that the UK would be at the “back of the queue” for trade deals if Brexit triumphed. Former high-level officials — used as channels for the views of those who now hold their positions — spoke of the negative effects not only on Britain’s economic future but on relationships within diplomatic, military, and intelligence partnerships.

See Britain Analysis: “God Help Our Country” — UK Out of European Union

Even before Washington woke to news of the result, the US reaction has been anticipated in Asian markets in which the pound fell 11% against the dollar in less than seven hours. The opening of American markets later today will drive home the warning, even if President Obama, his advisors, and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be guarded in their assessments.

The US-UK relationship rests on institutions which prefer security and certainty. Given that the UK — which may not be “United” in the near-future if Scotland departs — is entering a period of protracted insecurity and uncertainty, Washington will not be looking at “Independence Day” England and Wales as an asset, but as a problem.

Still, amid the gloom, one US figure offered relief through inadvertent black comedy. Presidential candidate Donald Trump, with exquisite timing for a trans-Atlantic visit, tweeted:

Trump may never realize that Scotland’s electorate voted 62-38 for Remain, and that the leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, Nicola Sturgeon, made it crystal-clear that Scotland’s future is with the European Union.

But more sober observers in the US will see this — and much more. Like many other fallouts from the “historic moment”, this does not bode well for the prominence in the world of a little England.

The Conversation

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5 COMMENTS

    • Lied about what? The EU is a corrupt, irrelevant, dysfunctional joke that is about to collapse. When the rest of the EU states rush for the exits, Britain’s will be relieved they are not among the last who are left with the bill for damages.

  1. Scott, you fail to understand Trump’s superior wit: he was riffing on the fact the nationalist Scotch are obviously elated over the Brexit win, as the Englanders leaving the EU ensures the proximate referendum re-run for Scottish independence will now win by a landslide and the BraveHearts will finally be free, taking the nukes sub base and N.Sea oil & gas with them … with the economic tables turned and the British monarchy in due course deposed by the DPRLE [Democratic People’s Republic of Little England] under President-for-Life Farage, N.Ireland will also rapidly defect South into a new Irish Republic and Wales will shortly thereafter also strike for liberty from the Sassenach foe … en fin, the so-called ‘UK’ is no more, something truly beautiful to behold!
    .
    As far as the vaunted ‘special relationship’ goes, the DPRLE has no need of Yankistani warcriminals … they will make themselves a cozy new bed with China, problem solved.

  2. Yup, generally I’d go along with the view that Britain is screwed, and on the really totally screwed with no comeback end of the spectrum.
    .
    But what hasn’t been discussed in much detail is the EU’s fortunes (ignoring the kremlin troll factory output here.
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    As i understand, the granddaddy of the EU, Charles de Gaulle, refused to let Britain enter. In fact it was’t until after his death that the UK was accepted.
    .
    That’s because the stock British political view of Europe was one of balance of power – preventing a powerful block emerging from Europe. Britain’s effect inside the EU was to water down European legislation, or continously attempt to do so, and undermine Europe in areas such as finance and capital – by not taxing capital flows from the EU, for example, and pursuing it’s own independant foriegn policy while engaging in a common EU policy which never managed to achieve anything.
    .
    With the British out, the EU looks set to become stronger and more effective as the UK’s role on the world stage diminishes. Germany and France in particular.
    .
    The biggest priority for the EU will be planning out the carving up of Russia, which is heading closer to self destruction by the day. The UK wont get any of the spoils and cant prevent the EU from taking them either. Maybe.

  3. It is still early days after the referendum and there is a fair amount of media furore, spin and the odd reassuring statement.
    This passage did catch my eye: ‘The current US leadership has not been shy about reasserting this. To the contrary, President Obama made clear in March that the UK would be at the “back of the queue” for trade deals if Brexit triumphed. Former high-level officials — used as channels for the views of those who now hold their positions — spoke of the negative effects not only on Britain’s economic future but on relationships within diplomatic, military, and intelligence partnerships’.
    I strongly believe the overt and back channel activity by the USA was simply unwise. It was all too easily seen as interference and biased towards David Cameron. Secondly it may impacted inside national institutions who were wavering over the choice, it had no impact on the electorate.
    If decision-makers inside ‘The Beltway’ think the EU offers anything like the UK in the realm of ‘diplomatic, military, and intelligence partnerships’ they are wrong.
    The UK has made it’s choice. There is a price to pay, some of that is already in play. So thank you USA officialdom we agree to disagree. Incidentally something that has frequently happened in the history of the ‘Special Relationship’ and we can still be partners – ecah following their own national interests.

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