Britain’s referendum on its membership of the European Union—which might lead to its exit (known as Brexit)—will take place on June 23.
After a pause following the tragic murder of Jo Cox, a Labour Party member of the British Parliament, the campaign resumed on Sunday, with the polls still too close to call.
But a number of members of the House of Representatives aren’t happy with the approach the Obama administration has taken toward Brexit. When he visited Britain in April, President Barack Obama made it clear that he wanted Britain to stay in the EU, and that, if it left, Britain would be at the “back of queue” for a trade deal with the United States.
The president’s intervention ended up hurting the “Remain” campaign, which seeks to keep Britain in the EU.
It felt like—and in fact, it was—an example of the kind of pro-EU bullying that has long been an irritant in the Anglo-American relationship.
And this hasn’t done unnoticed in the House of Representatives, where late last week, eleven members—including Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee—released a letter, led by Rep. George Holding, R-N.C., a co-chair of the U.K. caucus, and Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., urging the administration to remain neutral in the final days of the Brexit campaign.
As the letter puts it:
Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, citizen of the United Kingdom should know that we will continue to regard our relations with the the United Kingdom as a central factor in the foreign, security, and trading policies of the United States.
That is a much more reasonable position that the president’s. If Britain does leave the EU, it will recover the ability to negotiate its own trade agreements. In that case, the U.S. would be foolish not to negotiate an agreement with it.
After all, if Britain wasn’t in the EU, we’d surely have free trade with it already. After all, we already have trade agreements with Jordan and Colombia, which are strategically important, but not major trading partners of the United States.
It’s almost always a mistake for the U.S. to get involved when other democratic nations are voting. They have the right, just as we do, to make up their own minds, and the more we try to bully them, the less true to our own principles we are. Kudos to the members who stood up for this basic principle, and the Anglo-American relationship, in the Holding-Kelly letter.