While there are good reasons for British voters to either support or oppose theproposed withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, there is little argument at all from an American perspective that Brexit would hurt the US.
The strongest argument for the UK leaving the EU is that European bureaucrats have usurped many of the powers that should be vested in democratically elected officials in Westminster. Laws in Brussels are not made by people who can be readily held accountable to voters. Instead, a maze of one-size-fits-all bureaucracy has slowly and steadily eroded the role of national parliaments and other political institutions.
This is a convincing argument for British voters. However, it needn’t matter at all to Americans. What may matter to Americans, however, is the economic and national security impact of the UK deciding to leave the bloc.
There is consensus among economists that Britain leaving the EU would lead to a major economic shock, which would have worldwide impacts. In recent days, global markets have followed polls in the UK. The less likely it is that Britain leaves the better markets have done, and vice versa. Janet Yellen, the chair of the Federal Reserve, warned on Tuesday that Brexit could have “significant economic repercussions” in the US.
Furthermore, from a national security perspective, Brexit would deprive the US of a crucial window and important pro-American voice in pan-European meetings.
It also would risk Scottish independence, which would probably require the relocation of Britain’s nuclear submarines and weaken the UK’s military at a time when Europe faces a growing threat from Russian expansionism.
There is also an argument that the pro-Brexit campaign in the UK has set a disturbing trend for western democracies. Those campaigning for Britain to leave the EU have not focused on the gaping democratic deficit in European institutions. Instead, much of the campaign has focused on inflated anti-immigration rhetoric and demagoguery. One pro-Brexit poster unveiled by UK Independence party (Ukip) leader Nigel Farage featured a picture of a number of Middle Eastern refugees with the slogan “Breaking point: the EU has failed us all.” A win by pro-Brexit forces would be yet another signal of the potency of this variety of demagoguery in western politics and probably further influence the tone of what is already a historically divisive and bitter US presidential election.
British voters will make their decision on Thursday about whether the UK is better off within or without the European Union. And while the subject can be the topic of fair and reasonable debate in the UK, there is only one good outcome from the American perspective.