This week, the people of Britain won a major victory for democracy and sovereignty by voting to leave the European Union.
Many on the left, along with their allies in the media, are predicting that this Brexit will lead to economic disaster for Britain, if not all of Europe and the rest of the world. These doomsayers should take a deep breath and a fresh look at the reality of the situation beyond the initial disruptions caused by this momentous decision.
To hear many American elites talk about the Brexit decision, you would think the EU is the equivalent of Europe’s version of the North American Free Trade Agreement—a liberalized commercial area for a small group of foreign nations in close geographic proximity designed to facilitate economic cooperation. But it is much more than that.
By submitting to the EU, Britons have been subjected to the laws, decisions, and regulations of a centralized legislature, court, and bureaucracy located in a distant capital and out of touch with the local needs and priorities of the people—an arrangement that many Americans would recognize as similar to our own over-centralized, unaccountable federal government.
Moreover, the Brexit vote only begins the process of Britain leaving the EU. When announcing his resignation, Prime Minister David Cameron said his successor should decide when and how to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. And even after the next prime minister is elected, Article 50 provides a two-year process for Britain to negotiate both its own terms for leaving the EU and new trade deals with the rest of the world, including the United States.
That is what the United States should be doing now to support the people of Britain as they continue the work of disentangling themselves from the clutches of the EU’s centralized power structure in Brussels. We should be doing everything we can to negotiate new treaties with Britain to ensure a smooth, prosperous, and secure transition for both countries.
Prior to the Brexit vote, President Barack Obama indicated he wants to go a different path. Earlier this year, he threatened Britain that it would have to go to “the back of the queue” in any trade negotiations with the United States if it were to vote to leave the EU. This threat was ill-advised at the time and would be harmful to both countries if adhered to going forward.
Instead, Congress should pass new legislation both requiring the United States to honor our current agreements with the United Kingdom until new bilateral agreements can be negotiated, and directing the U.S. trade representative to begin negotiations on new bilateral agreements as soon as possible. There is no better way to honor America’s special relationship with Great Britain.