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Why Brexit Will Not Change the US Relationship with Britain

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By Herma Percy, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, School of Security and Global Studies, American Military University

Since Britain voted to exit the 28-member European Union, there’s been much debate on its impact on the U.S. Some experts argue it will change the special relationship the U.S. has with Britain.

There’s also been much speculation that Brexit would negatively impact U.S. mortgages, trade and immigration policies. Even presidential candidate Donald Trump argues that America may follow the example of Brexit and leave the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). But they are all wrong.

The U.S. has had a longstanding relationship with Great Britain. Brexit won’t change that.

America and Great Britain Remain Allies since World War II

Let’s not forget how the U.S. helped to rebuild the U.K. after WWII with funds from the Marshall Plan of 1948. This American initiative provided billions of dollars of aid in the economic recovery of war-devastated nations, and the U.K. was the largest recipient of our money in the European Recovery Program. Our ties and partnerships have strengthened over the years from trade to military to global security.

On the issue of security, Britain continues to be a great military ally of the U.S. and that will not change with Brexit. The U.K. has been one of our strongest allies in the War on Terror and fighting in Iraq. Its relationship with the U.S. to detect and deter terrorist activities has been vital since 9/11.

But our relationship with Britain in counterterrorism operations dates back to World War II, when we developed a close intelligence-sharing system. Some analysts argue that this system makes the U.K. an effective partner in the EU to gain cooperation from members in the War on Terror.

Indeed, the global threat of terrorism requires the coordination and cooperation of European partners to effectively address the crisis and thwart terrorist plots. The exit of the U.K. from the EU means the U.S. must now develop, strengthen or build relationships with other EU members.

Britain Still Remains in NATO, Unlikely to Leave

The U.S will continue to have a close relationship with Britain in NATO. While some presidential campaign rhetoric includes threats about the U.S. departure from NATO, it is extremely unlikely that the U.S. will leave this American-initiated alliance or reduce our level of support to our allies.

Many national security experts, Congressional members and other top government officials have publicly stated that it is not in the best interest of the U.S. to leave NATO. No country has ever left this military alliance since its establishment in 1949.

Furthermore, the U.S. must remain a NATO member so it can play a pivotal role in reshaping NATO’s mission and position in the international community in the 21st century and beyond. Some experts argue that NATO provides a formal structure for U.S. involvement in Europe. The U.S. will maintain its close relationship with U.K. through NATO and other international organizations.

On the issue of trade, the European Union is considered one of the world’s largest trading blocs. Some U.S. economists fear Brexit threatens the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade agreement between the EU and the U.S. But the U.S. will continue its trade relationship with a separate Britain and the remaining EU.

Obama Administration Encouraged Great Britain to Remain in EU

President Obama visited the U.K. and encouraged Brits to stay in the EU. However, that visit was met by criticism at home by Republicans such as Senator Ted Cruz.

But the Obama administration maintains that it is in the best interest of the U.S. for Britain, a close ally, to have remained in the EU. Britain’s EU membership helped to better ensure that EU policies would be more closely aligned with U.S. foreign policy.

However, the U.S. State Department reassured Americans after the Brexit vote. “We don’t anticipate anything changing the special relationship that we have with the U.K.,” said State Department Spokesperson John Kirby.

America and Britain are forever bound by our common history, language and democratic values. This bond will not change with the exit from just one international organization.

About the Author

Dr. Herma Percy is a homeland security associate professor at American Military University. She is also a member of the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council of Maryland and the City of Takoma Park Emergency Preparedness Committee. 

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