Richard Haass warns against “Brexit” and makes an unusually frank admission about why he hopes it doesn’t happen:
Even worse, it is highly probable that Americans advocating for a reduced US role in the world would seize on Brexit as further evidence that traditional allies were not doing their fair share, and that a US facing growing deficits and massive domestic needs should not be expected to make up the difference.
If anyone in the U.S. worries about whether the U.K. will stay in the EU, I suspect this is one of the most important reasons why. The possibility that Brexit might cause more Americans to object to our costly activist foreign policy alarms Haass, and he doesn’t want to take the chance. Most Americans would be content to let the U.K. decide whatever it wants on this issue, but for some foreign policy elites and pundits the example of a state putting its perceived national interests ahead of its commitment to a transnational institution is a dangerous one that needs to be prevented. The other “danger” of Brexit is that it will make the U.K. less useful as a tool for Washington, but more often than not U.K. “reliability” has been bad for both countries over the last two decades by enabling the U.S. to follow its worst instincts. The British rejection of the 2013 intervention in Syria that Haass laments was one of the best things the U.K. has done for the U.S. We would have a healthier bilateral relationship if that relationship weren’t defined to such a large degree by foolish decisions to wage wars of choice.
Withdrawing from the EU would have some consequences for the U.K. and the rest of Europe, but its effect on the U.S. and the U.S.-U.K. relationship is almost certainly overstated. If the U.K. left the EU, it is that much more likely that Scottish independence would follow soon after, but then the dissolution of the U.K. would probably have happened sooner or later anyway. One alarmist case against Brexit is that if the U.K. leaves France will do likewise, but that seems very unlikely. The EU would survive the U.K.’s withdrawal. If Haass is so concerned about stoking nationalist and populist movements, he should turn his ire on the political leaders in Berlin and Brussels whose policies have created the conditions in which those movements have been flourishing. Opposing “Brexit” because it may encourage more anti-EU sentiment misses that anti-EU sentiment has mostly been created by the ruinous policies of the EU in recent years. Even if “Brexit” doesn’t happen, that won’t remedy the EU’s democratic deficit or the destructive policies that it has forced its peripheral members to adopt in the last decade.