Jul 07 2016
Former British Prime Minister David Cameron warned that it could lead to war. A Brookings Institution scholar wondered ominously if it was the “greatest catastrophe” of the 21st century. CNN’s Peter Bergen compared it to appeasing Hitler.
And what exactly caused all these predictions of doom and bouts of anxiety?
Not a violent military coup. Not an unstable dictator obtaining nuclear weapons capability. Not a massive terrorist attack.
It was Brexit, the free and fair democratic vote by the British people to take back some control over their lives and laws from unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union’s administrative machinery. That critics would equate such a vote to the beginning of World War II says more about their skewed priorities than it does about the merits of the British people’s decision.
Has Brexit caused some uncertainty in financial markets? Certainly. In the near term of any major political transition, the world must adjust to new arrangements and realities. But the proper reaction amidst this transition should be for the United Kingdom’s allies to take steps to ensure that a post-Brexit United Kingdom—and the world—can realize the economic and strategic possibilities that full British sovereignty presents.
We believe that one of those steps is for the United States to move quickly to strengthen and expand one of our nation’s largest bilateral economic partnerships.
For more than 100 years, the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom has served as the foundation for our shared pursuit of freedom, security, and democracy in the world. Through two world wars, the Cold War, and now in our confrontation with global terrorism, our two countries have worked together to expand peace and prosperity.
A major element of this relationship is a strong and deeply rooted trading partnership. In 2015 alone, the U.S. exported more than $56 billion worth of goods and services to the U.K., a sum that was almost identical to the value of U.K. exports to American markets. Preserving and expanding this trading partnership ought to be a top economic and security priority for the United States.
Unfortunately, some on the left seem more interested in punishing Britain for defying EU bureaucrats than in securing a stable economic future for both our nations. Campaigning with Cameron in the United Kingdom against Brexit earlier this year, President Barack Obama warned the British people that if they did choose to leave the EU, they would have to go to “the back of the queue” in any trade negotiations with the United States.
This threat was odious at the time and it would be a grave mistake for Obama, or the next president, to follow through with it.
The United Kingdom has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States on the front lines of battle, and it should be at the front of the line for a free trade agreement that benefits both our nations. That is why we have introduced legislation, the “United Kingdom Trade Continuity Act,” that would both preserve and promote our special relationship with the United Kingdom.
The bill would maintain all current trade and economic agreements with the United Kingdom as if the United Kingdom were still part of the European Union. This will provide certainty to global markets in the near term and prevent any ill-advised attempts to punish the United Kingdom.
The bill also calls on the president to open negotiations for a new bilateral trade agreement with the United Kingdom within 30 days. Contrary to the doom and gloom predicted by many, Brexit is in fact an excellent opportunity for both countries to review the terms of our trade relations and reaffirm our commitment to advancing the well-being of British and American businesses, workers, and consumers.
The European Union had become a straitjacket on the U.K. For decades, the British people were subjected to the laws, decisions, and regulations of a centralized bureaucracy located in a distant capital that was out of touch with their unique needs and priorities.
The United Kingdom is now free from these burdens. And with that new freedom comes an opportunity for our nations to forge a free-trade relationship that would be the envy of the world.
As the United Kingdom renegotiates its ties to the rest of Europe, this is no doubt a period of transition. But as we have seen in prior periods of global change and even in times of tumult and war, there will be one vital constant: the Anglo-American special relationship.