London Mayor Boris Johnson has accused President Obama of “naked hypocrisy” for his opposition to UK independence from the EU—noting that the US refuses to even “sign up to the international convention on the law of the seas.”
Obama has previously warned Britons that a British exit from the EU, known colloquially as ‘Brexit’, would harm their “special relationship” with the United States—a position he is expected to reiterate in a London town hall meeting during his visit to the UK.
Boris Johnson, a US citizen by birth, is right to call out hypocrisy. But the biggest problem with Obama’s view is that it’s wrong; American interests would benefit from an independent UK.
European unity was an important bulwark against Soviet expansion during the Cold War, but the costs of an overly bureaucratic EU have increasingly begun to outweigh the benefits since the fall of the Berlin wall. The desired goals of strategic and market stability have become illusory, while the benefits of independence continue to grow.
It was a strong and independent UK that held off Germany prior to America’s entry into World War II. Once again, we live in uncertain times. But the UK is now entangled in a trans-continental bureaucracy defined by unaffordable entitlement programs, and run by self-important technocrats who are too busy dealing with the economies of failed states to manage their own security.
It is in America’s interest to foster robust alliances with powerful and independent nations. Clearly, an independent and rejuvenated UK would serve this goal. America’s position would be sturdier in the face of crisis, with an ally willing, and more able to pull its weight.
Furthermore, the American economy would benefit from Brexit.
The UK is America’s largest foreign investor—in 2014, the UK’s foreign investment amounted to almost one-fifth of the total $2.7 trillion of foreign direct investment in the US that year.
Being released from cumbersome EU regulations would undoubtedly make for a more dynamic and efficient UK economy, making it a more robust trading partner.
The UK faces a choice between an economic rebirth or the maintenance of the status quo. Public opinion in the UK is currently divided, with a six poll analysis showing 49 percent in support of Brexit, and 51 opposed.
This is a decision for the British people, who are best placed to shape their own future. Hopefully, Obama’s views will have little effect.
But if America must get involved, it should urge Britain to support Brexit in the referendum on June 23. It would strengthen the Anglo-American relationship—with a potential bilateral trade deal being just the start of what’s possible.