After a yr and a half of grueling negotiations between the UK and the European Union, the Brexit agreement introduced on the particular summit in Brussels on November 25 was welcome information. If ratified, the brand new withdrawal settlement would pave the way in which for EU leaders to endorse a twenty-one-month transition deal and eventually enter into the subsequent section of negotiations across the future UK-EU relationship. However Brexit is much from settled. A number of hurdles stay, together with securing needed approval from the European Parliament and a fractious British Parliament. A crash-out state of affairs for the UK after the March 29, 2019, deadline continues to be a definite risk if the present deal falters.
The final word consequence of Brexit may have widespread reverberations for the US, however it’s unclear whether or not the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges what’s at stake. Trump’s fast response to the Brexit withdrawal settlement was to not solely criticize the deal however to additionally counsel that it would damage U.S.-UK trade, additional jeopardizing the deal’s December vote within the Home of Commons and undermining Prime Minister Theresa Might’s already weak political scenario. A no-deal state of affairs would negatively impression a number of essential U.S. political, safety, and financial pursuits vis-à-vis the UK and Europe. Though Washington has solely restricted means to play a constructive function at this late level within the negotiations, the Trump administration’s muddled and hands-off strategy to date has not served it nicely. At this significant juncture within the Brexit course of, the US ought to focus its efforts on avoiding a no-deal scenario whereas weighing in on explicit problems with clear U.S. curiosity the place there’s alternative to have interaction positively going ahead.
The Trump Administration’s Muddled Strategy
Though Trump has been outspoken in assist of Brexit, the official State Division place on Brexit has been extra impartial and largely hands-off. To the extent the administration has actively engaged with Brexit, it has prioritized a slim agenda targeted on financial and commerce points.
Whereas former U.S. president Barack Obama overtly spoke out towards Brexit and urged British voters to “stick with” the EU throughout his go to to London in April 2016, Trump has been an outspoken supporter of Brexit since earlier than he was elected president. On the day earlier than the June 2016 Brexit referendum, Trump referred to Brexit as “a great thing” whereas visiting his golf course in Scotland. Trump additionally hosted pro-Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage at Trump Tower in New York Metropolis solely days after his presidential election victory—his first overseas customer as president-elect.
Trump has sometimes injected himself in British politics since turning into president by publicly backing Brexit. Throughout his journey to London in July 2018, he urged that Boris Johnson (who had simply resigned as Theresa Might’s overseas secretary) would “make a great prime minister” and criticized Might’s strategy to Brexit by suggesting that she as a substitute “sue the EU” over the negotiations.
Trump’s view on Brexit appears to be primarily based on three beliefs. First, he sees Brexit as an financial boon for the US, and he’s enticed by a possible U.S.-UK free commerce settlement. Assembly with Might within the UK, Trump summed up his fundamental place on Brexit: “No matter [the UK is] going to do is okay with us. Simply ensure that we will commerce collectively. That’s all that issues.”
Second, Trump views the EU as a strategic competitor to the US. He has repeatedly claimed that the EU was fashioned to “take advantage” of and “rip off” the US, and he has characterised the EU as a “consortium” akin to one thing he could have confronted within the enterprise world. In doing so, Trump has dismissed the broader political and strategic which means of the European undertaking. From this restricted perspective, it follows that Brexit’s blow to the union would enhance U.S. leverage to assert financial concessions from a weakened EU.
Third, Trump sees parallels between Brexiteers and himself. Each view themselves as outsiders who symbolize a silent majority ignored by elites and the media, striving for better sovereignty and towards immigration. “They took their country back, just like we will take America back,” Trump tweeted the day after the Brexit vote. He views Brexit as an assertion of nationwide sovereignty, which was the cornerstone of his September 2018 speech to the UN Common Meeting. Trump’s skeptical opinion of the EU, disdain for multilateral establishments, and choice for dealing with diplomatic and commerce points bilaterally make the underlying rationale for Brexit analogous to his personal home political struggle.
Nevertheless, whereas Trump has been outspoken in favoring Brexit, official U.S. administration coverage is just not essentially in lockstep. State Division language has urged a extra impartial place, eschewing Trump’s anti-EU rhetoric. Administration officers have urged either side to cooperate to make sure that “the end result of the Brexit talks [is] a strong UK and a strong EU.” Maybe the clearest articulation of State Division coverage towards Brexit has come from Wess Mitchell, the assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia. Mitchell identified four priorities: swiftly concluding the Brexit negotiations, sustaining stability in Northern Eire, persevering with UK management in transatlantic decisionmaking, and strengthening the long-term U.S.-European financial relationship.
The official U.S. engagement on Brexit has been remarkably hands-off. The State Division has urged progress by public statements and personal demarches, however, given the home and European stakes of Brexit negotiations, officers are possible conscious that sort or cautionary phrases from the US is not going to imply a lot. Any U.S. efforts to intervene within the Brexit negotiations, particularly beneath a deeply unpopular president, might simply backfire in Europe.
Even on points the place Washington has a transparent alternative to play a constructive function and safeguard U.S. pursuits, it has not exhibited any seen management. From 1995 till Trump’s inauguration in 2017 (with a spot from 2011 to 2014), the US had a particular envoy for Northern Eire to advertise and preserve peace. With Northern Eire’s standing holding up the Brexit talks, each the Irish authorities and the U.S. Congress have pressured Trump to appoint a new special envoy. Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson expressed curiosity, however his successor, Mike Pompeo, has proven less initiative. When requested concerning the subject in Might, Pompeo told Congress “I don’t know. . . . I haven’t thought of whether or not we should always appoint a particular envoy or not.” Even when the UK and the EU agree on an answer to the Irish border subject, appointing a particular envoy would allow the US to have interaction on this subject going ahead.
Maybe unsurprisingly, the Trump administration has been most engaged on financial points, specializing in commerce with the UK. The U.S.-UK Trade and Investment Working Group—which has met 5 instances since November 2017, most just lately in November 2018—is setting the groundwork for formally negotiating a U.S.-UK free commerce settlement as soon as the UK leaves the EU. Though Trump has characterised the U.S.-UK relationship as “the highest level of special,” he strongly helps a shortly concluded commerce deal, calling it an “incredible opportunity.” The USA may have a a lot stronger negotiating place with the post-Brexit UK, which can must make pricey concessions to U.S. negotiators. As a gap gambit, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross implied to a British viewers in 2017 that the UK would want to just accept chlorinated chicken exports from the US as a part of a deal—one thing the British have lengthy opposed. U.S. commerce coverage vis-à-vis Europe seems extra involved with diverting UK commerce away from the EU towards the US, fairly than guaranteeing a steady trilateral financial relationship between the US, UK, and EU.
A No-Deal Brexit Would Damage U.S. Pursuits
Whereas Trump could also be enticed by the prospect of a “hard Brexit”—or perhaps a complete breakdown within the UK-EU negotiations—a no-deal Brexit state of affairs runs opposite to U.S. pursuits. It might forged the UK into unprecedented turmoil, inflicting widespread financial and political disruption and impacting very important U.S. targets like bilateral commerce and transatlantic unity. A key precedence for the Trump administration should be making an attempt to keep away from such an consequence.
The political chaos from a no-deal Brexit consequence would precipitate an inward flip and sap London’s power and political urge for food for an bold overseas coverage and army deployments overseas, making the UK a much less helpful political and army associate. Already, Brexit has consumed a lot of Britain’s strategic consideration and a dragged-out or disruptive Brexit course of might additional reinforce this development. Britain should still search to spice up its abroad safety commitments as a part of its Global Britain technique—similar to current discussions about dispatching the HMS Queen Elizabeth plane provider to the South China Sea—however there stays a severe threat that the British public and authorities shall be overwhelmed by home and European affairs if no deal is reached.
Furthermore, the detrimental financial turbulence of a no-deal Brexit could diminish the UK’s means to fund its armed forces. The British army has already shrunk to half its size on the finish of the Chilly Conflict. U.S. Protection Secretary James Mattis voiced considerations concerning the continued erosion of the British military to his British counterpart, warning that the UK could someday not be the US’ “associate of alternative” until it will increase protection investments. Even when the UK continues to spend round 2 percent of its GDP on defense, the precise quantity could possibly be affected by a slowed British economic system or a weaker pound within the occasion of a no-deal Brexit. The Financial institution of England has warned that the British economic system might shrink by 8 % within the fast aftermath of Brexit in a no-deal scenario.
An financial disaster or stagnation within the UK would have detrimental direct and secondary impacts on U.S. financial pursuits. The U.S.-EU commerce and funding relationship is second to none worldwide and, inside the EU, the UK is the second-largest commerce and largest funding associate of the US, supporting 1.1 million jobs. Though macro-level impression on the U.S. economic system might be minimal, sure sectors can be affected. A no-deal Brexit would particularly impression U.S. corporations with European headquarters in London who depend on entry to the EU market. Given the deep funding ties between the US and the UK—plus London’s essential function in international finance—U.S.-based monetary establishments have a powerful curiosity in guaranteeing that their London-based operations proceed to have “passporting” rights to promote their companies within the EU after Brexit.
Brexit has additionally reopened questions concerning the territorial integrity of the UK. Northern Eire’s standing is on the coronary heart of negotiations between the UK and EU, with its future unclear. Stopping fraying relations between Eire and Britain and safeguarding the Good Friday Settlement, which then U.S. president Invoice Clinton helped forge in 1998, are clear U.S. targets. Scotland, which voted 62 percent “remain” within the Brexit referendum, could renew its independence marketing campaign relying on the end result of Brexit. Scotland is related for U.S. safety pursuits as a result of it harbors the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarines. Territorial disintegration would clearly undermine the UK’s standing as a significant associate for the US, because the weakened UK can be pressured to show inward to deal with the immense political challenges. Nevertheless, even wanting disintegration—which stays an unlikely state of affairs—changes in the constitutional order of the UK might current challenges with long-term ramifications.
A no-deal Brexit would additionally threat creating an acrimonious relationship within the coronary heart of Europe. Tensions between London and EU capitals might doubtlessly spill over into coverage creation and undermine transatlantic unity. At a time when strategic opponents, specifically Russia and China, are searching for to extend their geopolitical affect in Europe, such divisions can be detrimental to transatlantic relations.
A New U.S. Strategy Towards Brexit Is Wanted
With a tentative settlement reached between UK and EU leaders, the Brexit course of is now at an important second. To be able to progress to the subsequent stage of negotiating a future UK-EU relationship, the British Parliament and the European Parliament might want to log out on the 585-page withdrawal settlement and the 26-page political declaration on a future UK-EU relationship. EU officers have made it clear that they oppose any renegotiation wanting the UK altering its thoughts about leaving the union. If this deal falls aside, the UK can be on the cliff’s edge because the March 29, 2019, deadline approaches. Given the excessive stakes, Washington should make clear its place on Brexit and—regardless of restricted room for engagement—stake out areas the place it could actually contribute to a passable conclusion.
This begins with a renewed dedication to reaching an settlement and averting a no-deal Brexit state of affairs. The USA should keep away from any contradictory steps that might derail the UK’s prospects of reaching a deal, similar to weakening Might’s standing at dwelling by overtly criticizing the withdrawal settlement. If the present withdrawal settlement collapses and the UK faces a crash-out state of affairs on March 30, 2019, the U.S. administration ought to encourage the EU to take steps that may briefly mitigate the scenario. For instance, the US might push for a sequence of mini-deals between the EU and the UK on particular key points—though it must tread fastidiously. The USA might additionally foyer EU governments to permit the UK extra time, by extending the article 50 provisions. If no deal will be reached, the U.S. administration should use its diplomatic channels to assist mitigate fallout between London and EU members. Ought to a second Brexit referendum be held, Trump should keep away from the temptation of interfering in British home politics in favor of a sure place.
Even when the present deal between the UK and the EU holds, the US must be cautious of pushing for a tough Brexit primarily based on narrowly outlined financial pursuits. Whereas a tough Brexit state of affairs could supply the US sure financial benefits, the consequences would possible be pretty minimal. A 2017 RAND study exhibits that though the US would profit barely from a U.S.-UK free commerce settlement, complete positive aspects over a ten-year interval would solely quantity to the equal of 0.2 % of U.S. GDP in 2015. Furthermore, aligning UK laws with U.S. requirements might injury UK-EU commerce. Regulatory divergence and a lack of commerce between the UK and the EU might weaken each at a time of political instability. Such turbulence would undermine U.S. pursuits in sustaining a powerful and affluent Europe. Whereas the small print of the UK’s buying and selling standing with the EU are nonetheless being fleshed out, the Trump administration ought to keep away from taking steps that might complicate the scenario.
In the meantime, a delicate Brexit might enhance the outlook for a powerful future UK-EU relationship. The ultimate standing of the UK’s relationship with the EU is but to be outlined, however the UK—and, by extension, the US—is predicted to lose a few of its affect in Europe. For the reason that UK has historically aligned with the US on points like transatlantic safety, Washington has loved having London as an advocate and likeminded associate in Brussels. Guaranteeing a detailed and forward-looking UK-EU “particular relationship” after Brexit, significantly on overseas coverage and safety issues, must be a high precedence for the US. From a U.S. perspective, sustaining shut UK-EU cooperation is essential to crucial points similar to intelligence, area, counterterrorism, safety, and sanctions on Russia. One other precedence must be guaranteeing that the UK (whose protection business is very built-in with U.S. corporations) is just not excluded from contributing to EU Common Security and Defense Policy operations and collaborating in new EU initiatives, such because the Permanent Structured Cooperation and the European Development Fund.
Washington must also reap the benefits of particular areas the place U.S. engagement might make a optimistic distinction. The State Division ought to appoint a particular envoy to Northern Eire. Having an energetic U.S. presence in Northern Eire would assist guarantee stability no matter how the Irish border backstop subject is finally resolved.
Lastly, the US wants to check the evolving dynamics of the EU and establish new post-Brexit companions. With Washington’s closest ally leaving the union, it’s time for the US to take a position extra in strengthening bilateral relationship with different EU international locations or teams of member states. Whereas no single EU nation can absolutely change the UK, exploring the place different international locations align with U.S. pursuits may also help inform an issue-by-issue strategy to sustaining U.S. affect over the EU’s future path.
Brexit may have widespread ramifications for the UK, Europe, and the US. Regardless of Trump’s affinity for the Brexiteers and skepticism of the EU, his administration ought to actively work to assist forestall a no-deal Brexit state of affairs—even when solely to safeguard its personal long-term pursuits by maintaining a powerful UK and a steady EU as shut companions in an period of strategic competitors towards Russia and China. To take action, the Trump administration should keep away from taking any steps that might undermine a positive consequence; chorus from sending combined indicators about its personal place; and broaden its horizons—past the present slim agenda on commerce—to see the strategic significance of a profitable decision to Brexit that maintains a powerful UK-EU partnership.
Nathaniel Rome is a former analysis assistant on the Europe Program on the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace.