16 February 2016

O Americans, embrace Brexit


President Obama is no supporter of Brexit. Just as David Cameron is warning of grave consequences for Britain if it leaves the European Union – floods of migrants crossing the English Channel, economic isolation, heightened terrorism risks – the American president has told the British people that Brexit is against US interests and will weaken the transatlantic alliance. What unites the Cameron and Obama approach is a message of fear, projected through a great deal of scaremongering. The British and American people, however, should make up their own minds rather than listen to lectures from Downing Street and the White House.

It is doubtful that British voters will be swayed by deeply negative messaging, and the latest YouGov poll shows the campaign to leave the EU ahead by 12 percentage points (excluding undecided voters). Nor should the American public be swayed by the Obama administration’s talking points.

Americans have no reason to fear Brexit. They should embrace it as a tremendous opportunity to reinvigorate the Anglo-American Special Relationship, which has been politically weakened in recent years during Barack Obama’s time in office.

The consequences of the Brexit referendum matter to the United States. Great Britain is by far America’s most important and steadfast ally on the international stage, and the US/UK economic, trading, military and intelligence partnership is the beating heart of the free world. The UK is America’s second largest foreign direct investor after Japan, and there are more than $5 trillion of US corporate assets based in the UK. Strikingly, in 2013, there was nearly four times more British investment in the US compared to FDI from Germany, the supposed economic powerhouse of the European Union.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, it was Great Britain that stood shoulder to shoulder with the world’s superpower when faced with a deadly threat to international security. Should the United States face another major crisis on this scale, Washington will likely look again to London, rather than Brussels, Paris or Berlin for military support. It is doubtful that the barbaric thugs of ISIS, the Mullahs in Tehran, or the ruling kleptocracy in Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin lose much sleep over letters of protest from the European Commission. But they do take note when the world’s superpower is prepared to stand up to terrorism and tyranny, and the US is always in a more powerful position when Britain stands alongside it. As Margaret Thatcher eloquently put it, “whatever people say, the special relationship does exist, it does count and it must continue, because the United States needs friends in the lonely task of world leadership. More than any other country, Britain shares America’s passionate commitment to democracy and willingness to stand and fight for it.”

A Great Britain shorn of the shackles of the EU will be a stronger and more powerful ally for the United States. Tied to a sinking, decaying Europe that is addicted to big government, high taxes, excessive public debt, and bloated, unaffordable entitlement programs, Britain faces a stark choice between a fresh start as a truly sovereign nation free to shape its own destiny, or the status quo, simply rearranging the deckchairs on the Eurofederalist Titanic.

Polling shows that a growing number of Britons wish to launch a lifeboat offered by the upcoming EU referendum. If indeed Britain does seize this historic opportunity, the American people must be with them. Brexit offers tremendous prospects on both sides of the Atlantic, from a US/UK free trade deal to London liberated from suffocating EU regulations. The biggest winners will be economic freedom and self-determination, two of the most powerful forces that advance prosperity and liberty across the world.

Nile Gardiner is the Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.